Rebels in eastern Ukraine reject peace plan and ceasefire offer by Poroshenko
President to allow safe passage to Russia if insurgents lay down arms
Miners march during a rally in support of peace yesterday in central Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine. Photograph: AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka
Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have rejected an offer of a ceasefire from the country’s president, as a United Nations report accused the separatists of imposing a “reign of fear” in areas they control. Petro Poroshenko, the confectionary billionaire who became Ukraine’s head of state this month, said he was ready in the coming days to issue a ceasefire order to government forces fighting insurgents in Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
“Straight after that, we should receive support from other parties to events in [the east],” he said yesterday. “I will propose an amnesty for those who lay down their arms and have not committed serious crimes. And I will propose the creation of a corridor through which Russian mercenaries and their weapons can leave the territory of our country.”
He said that, in response, he expected the rebels – who reject Kiev’s new pro-western leaders and want eastern Ukraine to join Russia – “to free hostages and leave occupied buildings” and allow order to be restored in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Devolution of power
Mr Poroshenko described the ceasefire as the first stage in a 14-point “peace plan” that he would reveal in the near future. It is expected to envisage constitutional change that would transfer many powers from Kiev to the regions.
He made clear, however, that government forces must take control of Ukraine’s border with Russia before any ceasefire could be declared.
Rebels now control much of the frontier, and Kiev and its western allies say Russia is allowing fighters and advanced weapons to cross into Ukraine and reinforce the separatists, who have shot down military aircraft with shoulder-launched missiles. Moscow denies assisting the insurgents.
The rebels – who claim to be defending eastern Ukraine from a Kiev government they call a “junta” backed by Russian-hating “fascists” – immediately rejected Mr Poroshenko’s ceasefire plan.
“It’s a pointless suggestion,” said Denis Pushilin, a separatist leader in Donetsk. “It would mean they stop shooting, we disarm, and then they capture us without weapons ... We want our territory to be free of occupiers who are now systematically destroying us.”
Mr Pushilin is in Moscow, where he has acknowledged receiving guidance from figures close to the Kremlin.
Alexander Borodai, a Russian political consultant and self-proclaimed prime minister of the rebel “Donetsk People’s Republic”, was also in Moscow yesterday, meeting members of Russia’s upper house of parliament.
He rejected suggestions that Kiev wanted peace, and praised “a steady flow of volunteers coming from Russia who fight for the interests of people” in eastern Ukraine.
The UN’s human rights office said yesterday that at least 356 people had been killed in Ukraine since the government launched an “anti-terrorist” operation in April; of those, 86 were servicemen, and an unspecified number were rebels.
At least 222 people had been abducted during the same period, and the whereabouts of 81 of them was still unknown, the UN said.
Senior UN rights official Gianni Magazzeni said people living in rebel-held areas now faced “a reign of fear, if not terror”.