Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko visits a military camp
near the town of Svyatogorsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has ordered a
seven-day ceasefire in the fight against pro-Russian
separatists, but also warned them they could face death if they
did not use the time to put down their guns.
In Moscow, the Kremlin, whose support Poroshenko needs for
his plan to end the insurgency in the rebellious east,
denounced the ceasefire as an ultimatum to separatists rather
than a peace offering.
Poroshenko, installed only three weeks ago as president after
seven months of turmoil in the ex-Soviet republic, ordered
government forces to cease firing to allow his peace plan for
the region to take root.
But after fierce fighting on Thursday about 100 km (60 miles)
from the Russian border that apparently caused heavy losses
for separatists and some deaths on the Ukrainian side,
Poroshenko backed his declaration with a warning to the
Interfax news agency quoted him as telling military officers
in the east that the temporary ceasefire would give the
rebels just one week to lay down their arms, after which
"they will have to be eliminated."
The ceasefire "does not mean that we will not fight back in
the event of aggression towards our military. We will do
everything we can to defend the territory of our state," his
website quoted him separately as saying.
The ceasefire will run from 10pm on Friday until 10am on June
27, it said.
After announcement of the ceasefire, Poroshenko launched a
15-point peace plan to end the insurgency in the
Russian-speaking east which erupted in April after street
protests in the capital Kiev toppled the Moscow-backed Viktor
Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
Kiev's new authorities quickly saw the hand of Moscow when
separatist groups took control of strategic buildings and
towns in the east, declaring "people's republics" and
declaring they wanted to join Russia.
In Donetsk, the main industrial hub in the region, the rebels
remained unmoved by Poroshenko's ceasefire gesture or the
unveiling of a peace plan on Friday.
"What kind of reaction do you expect? When they (the Kiev
side) pull out their army, then you will have our reaction,"
a spokeswoman for the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic
The first soldiers for a people's republic army would take
oaths of allegiance on Donetsk's Lenin Square on Saturday,
she announced defiantly.
A spokesman for government forces said about 300 separatists
were killed in fighting on Thursday in an eastern area about
100 km from the border and fighting continued there on
Ukrainian forces lost seven servicemen, he said. The rebel
casualties could not be verified independently.
Earlier on Friday, Kiev said government forces had regained
control of the border with Russia and could now stop supplies
being sent to arm pro-Russian separatists - something
Poroshenko needed to hear before calling a ceasefire.
Poroshenko is now gearing up for a round of high diplomacy to
sell his peace plan to allies and adversaries alike in a bid
to end the insurgency that threatens the unity of the
His biggest challenge will be to win real support from
Russian President Vladimir Putin for his plan, despite
relations being at rock bottom amid Ukrainian accusations
that Moscow fomented the unrest.
But the Kremlin, in a quick reaction, denounced the ceasefire
move. "This is not an invitation to peace and negotiations
but an ultimatum to militias in the southeast of Ukraine to
lay down their arms," it said in a statement.
It also said a Russian border post had come under fire and
demanded "an explanation and an apology" from Kiev.
Moscow denies orchestrating the troubles and supporting the
rebels. It has urged Ukraine to end "punitive" action against
the separatists and engage in dialogue with them.
PEACE PLAN DETAILS
Poroshenko's peace plan would offer a safety corridor out to
Russia for rebels and volunteer Russian fighters on condition
they lay down their arms.
It also calls for establishment of a 10 km (6.25 mile)-wide
"buffer zone" along the 1,900 km (1,180 mile)-long border.
The plan would offer freedom from prosecution for separatists
who put down their arms and had not committed "serious
crimes" and require all hostages to be freed.
It calls for "decentralisation" of powers and full
Russian-language rights to address the grievances of people
in the east.
Ukraine says fighters from Russia and supplies of guns and
other military equipment have been pouring into the country
to support the separatists.
But though relations with Russia have deteriorated sharply,
the pro-Western Poroshenko is under pressure all the same to
secure support from Moscow, as well as from his backers in
the West, for his plan.
On Thursday, he openly appealed to Russian President Vladimir
Putin for his support when he outlined the plan in a
telephone conversation, his website said.
Poroshenko's new foreign minister will present the blueprint
on Monday to his European Union counterparts in Luxembourg.
Their support assumes added value after the political
association agreement signed between the two sides on June
There were no clear details on the flow of battle on Friday
east of Krasny Liman, a town controlled by government forces
about 100 km (60 miles) from the border with Russia.
"Military action is continuing," government forces spokesman
Vladyslav Seleznyov said.
At the border crossing point of Izvarino on Friday, there was
a two-kilometre tailback of cars, buses and minivans of
people trying to cross into Russia to escape the fighting.
Many vehicles were packed with bags and personal belongings,
children's toys, water and food.
"We dropped everything, our house and property. Packed
whatever we could carry and now we're going to Moscow and
further on," said Natalya Bryalkova, 45, from a small town
near Luhansk which was the scene of heavy fighting this week.
"Ukraine has gone nuts. I'm hoping to return but I don't
think it will work," she said.