DONETSK, Ukraine: Separatist leaders in two main areas of Ukraine’s east have agreed to observe a ceasefire with Ukrainian forces until June 27, one of them, Alexander Boroday, said yesterday.
The truce is to run parallel to a unilateral Ukrainian military ceasefire declared by President Petro Poroshenko on Friday as part of a peace plan to end the insurgency by pro-Russian separatists in the Russian-speaking east that threatens the dismemberment of the former Soviet republic.
The separatists’ announcement, after talks which also involved a senior Russian diplomat and a former Ukrainian president, came after a day of high diplomacy in which the West urged Russia to use its influence to defuse the conflict in Ukraine’s rebellious east.
Speaking after meeting a “contact group” which included a representative of the OSCE security watchdog, Boroday said: “The consultation ended with authorities of the Luhansk and Donetsk Republics agreeing to maintain a ceasefire for their part ...until the 27th.”
An unusual lack of armed incidents throughout yesterday, making it the first non-violent day in the east for weeks, appeared to indicate that the rebels had begun to observe their truce earlier in the day.
Volodymyr Chepovy, an official of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said that from 9am to 5pm no incidents of weapons use were recorded. “There were no attempts to seize administrative buildings or military points etc.”
Ukrainian ex-president Leonid Kuchma, who took part in the talks, said the agreement on a two-way ceasefire until 10 am on June 27 meant “one of the key problems has been resolved.”
The declaration of a rebel ceasefire after talks involving a Russian representative seemed certain to be welcomed by the West as a sign Moscow could be ready now to help engineer a settlement in Ukraine’s troubled east. Andriy Parubiy, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said the participants at yesterday’s talks had also agreed there should be cooperation to free hostages.
Earlier, the European Union, with whom Ukraine will sign a landmark association and trade agreement on Friday, threw its weight behind Poroshenko’s peace initiative after hearing a report from his new foreign minister, and it urged Russia to use its influence on the separatists to halt the violence.