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Ukraine’s Poroshenko ends ceasefire with pro-Russia rebels

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-01

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Tuesday he was abandoning a unilateral ceasefire in the conflict with pro-Russian separatists after talks with Russia and European leaders failed to start a broader peace process.

Poroshenko’s decision, announced shortly after the much-violated 10-day ceasefire expired, raises the prospect of renewed escalation of a conflict that has killed more than 400 people.

"After examining the situation I have decided, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, not to extend the unilateral ceasefire," the newly-elected leader said in a televised address early on Tuesday. "We will attack."

There was no immediate sign of a response from Russia early Tuesday.

The idea behind the truce announced on June 20 was to give pro-Russia rebels a chance to disarm and to start a broader peace process including an amnesty and new elections. Poroshenko, a wealthy candy magnate elected on May 25, had already extended the ceasefire from seven days.

But the rebels did not disarm, and the ceasefire was continually violated, with both sides blaming each other. Rebels called the ceasefire fake and did not yield to Poroshenko’s latest push to get them to turn over key border crossings with Russia and permit international monitoring.

“The unique chance to put the peace plan into practice was not realised,” Poroshenko said. “This happened because of the criminal actions of the fighters.” He said the militants violated the truce “more than a hundred times.”

‘Ready to return to ceasefire’

The announcement could trigger a steep escalation in the months-long conflict after a diplomatic push led by France and Germany failed to convince Kiev to extend a 10-day truce that did not quell the fighting in the rebellious eastern regions.

But Poroshenko – under pressure from the Ukrainian public to toughen his stance on the uprising – insisted that Kiev was not abandoning its peace plan altogether.

"We are even ready to return to a ceasefire at any moment. When we see that all the parties agree to enact the essential points of the peace plan," he said.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of fuelling the bloodshed that has claimed some 450 lives by sending arms and fighters across the porous border between the two ex-Soviet neighbours.

The Ukrainian president's announcement came a few hours after a conference call with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany.

The French presidency had said that Kiev and Moscow were working on the "adoption of an agreement on a bilateral ceasefire," sparking expectations that the truce would continue.

But Kiev said only that all sides agreed that a new bilateral ceasefire should be discussed at a fresh round of "consultations" involving an OSCE envoy, a Russian diplomat and former Ukrainian leader Leonid Kuchma.

For its part, the Kremlin backed new indirect talks and said Putin had "stressed the importance of extending a ceasefire," to be monitored by international observers.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

Date created : 2014-07-01

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