Ukraine crisis: President Poroshenko calls ceasefire as Russia defends border troop movement
New President’s peace plan would create buffer zone along frontier with Russia
The Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, ordered his troops in the east of the country to cease fire on Friday night, even as a surge in separatist violence and accusations of deeper Russian involvement in the conflict provoked another round of US sanctions.
A spokesman for the interior ministry said the ceasefire would last for a week and that Ukrainian troops would return fire only if fired upon.
Mr Poroshenko, who was elected last month, has vowed to end the armed pro-Russian uprising which has spread through key eastern industrial cities, sending Ukraine to the brink of a break-up and pummelling relations between Russia and the West.
US and European leaders claim that fighters and weapons are flooding over the border from Russia as Moscow seeks to stoke the instability to regain influence in its former Soviet territory. They have given the Kremlin until the end of the month to clamp down or face tougher economic sanctions.
On Friday the White House said it was adding seven more officials from Ukraine and Russia to a list of dozens who have had their assets frozen and are banned from travelling to the US, and pointed to reports of more military hardware coming over the border.
“We have information that additional tanks departed from a deployment site in south-west Russia,” a US official said, adding that talks with the EU about moving to the next level of sanctions – debilitating measures targeting specific sectors of Russia’s economy – had intensified.
EU foreign ministers will meet on Monday to discuss new sanctions. Mr Poroshenko is also due to update the bloc on his 14-step peace plan, which went into action on Friday after the Defence Minister told parliament the border with Russia had been sealed. The interior ministry said of the ceasefire: “This is being done so that terrorists can put down their arms; those who do not do this will be eliminated.”
Nevertheless, fierce fighting continued inside Ukraine, with the Associated Press agency reporting that at least seven troops had been killed and 30 injured in the Donetsk region, where separatists declared an independent republic shortly after taking over public buildings in April.
Vladyslav Seleznyov, a Ukrainian army spokesman, claimed about 300 separatists were killed in Friday's fighting. The figures could not be independently verified.
Pro-Russian militants guarding on a street near the village of Karlivka, near Donetsk, Ukraine (EPA)
The separatist movement counts anti-government Ukrainians, ethnic Russians, ex-soldiers and a smattering of opportunists among its fighters, and their varying goals and allegiances have complicated efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.
Under Mr Poroshenko’s peace plan, the sealing of the border and the declaration of a ceasefire will be followed by the establishment of a buffer zone along the frontier. There will then be an amnesty for rebels who lay down their weapons and the offer of safe passage to Russian fighters who want to return home.
Mr Poroshenko has also discussed the blueprint with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Many of the proposals, such as a decentralisation of political powers and greater equality for Russian speakers, are long-standing demands from the Kremlin. Much hinges on whether Moscow finds the terms of the blueprint acceptable and uses its sway with the rebels, who have so far rejected the proposals.
Since its annexation of the Crimean peninsula in February, Russia has claimed no further interest in Ukrainian territory, and earlier this month pulled some of its troops back from the border. On Thursday, the Nato secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said there was evidence that Russian soldiers were regrouping near the frontier. Mr Putin’s foreign policy adviser denied these claims and said only border guards had been deployed.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This law firm is seeking a happy, helpful and ...
£26000 - £29000 per annum + Holidays & Pension: The Jenrick Group: Production ...
£33000 - £35000 per annum + Pension and holidays: The Jenrick Group: Project E...
£35200 per annum + Pension and holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Engine...