Pro-Russian rebels agree to cease-fire

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DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Rus­sian sep­a­rat­ists de­clared a cease-fire Mon­day in a sur­prise move that they said they hoped would lead to a set­tle­ment of the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine.

The an­nounce­ment Mon­day came as rebel lead­ers met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in Kiev, in­clud­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Leonid Kuchma, as well as the Rus­sian am­bas­sa­dor to Ukraine and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the act­ing chair­man of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe.

“In an­swer to the cease-fire by Kiev, we com­mit to a cease-fire from our side,” said Al­ex­an­der Boro­dai, prime min­is­ter of the self-de­clared Donetsk People’s Re­pub­lic.

Mr. Boro­dai, a Rus­sian cit­i­zen, said the cease-fire would last un­til Fri­day, match­ing the time­line of the cease-fire an­nounced last week by Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Porosh­enko. “We also hope that in the time of this bi­lat­eral cease-fire,” he con­tin­ued, “we can agree to be­gin con­sul­ta­tions about the in­tro­duc­tion of ne­go­ti­a­tions about a peace­ful set­tle­ment of this con­flict.”

The of­fi­cials met in Donetsk, the re­gional cap­i­tal, on the 11th floor of the re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, which had been seized by sep­a­rat­ist reb­els and re­mains un­der their con­trol. A Boro­dai aide said talks would con­tinue to­day.

Mr. Porosh­enko on Fri­day de­clared a uni­lat­eral cease-fire by gov­ern­ment troops clash­ing with reb­els in the coun­try’s em­bat­tled east and un­veiled a peace plan to bring an end to the con­flict. The plan pro­posed am­nesty for rebel fight­ers who had not com­mit­ted se­ri­ous crimes, as well as safe pas­sage for those who wanted to re­turn home to Rus­sia. It also called for de­cen­tral­iza­tion of the na­tional gov­ern­ment, which would al­low for greater self-rule in the east, though de­tails of that plan are not yet fi­nal. The plan, how­ever, did not call for ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the sep­a­rat­ist lead­ers of the self-de­clared re­pub­lics — a step that Mr. Porosh­enko had ruled out through­out his cam­paign and since his in­au­gu­ra­tion June 6.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin gave cau­tious sup­port to the peace plan, but said it must lead to talks be­tween both sides. At the same time, the United States last week said it had ev­i­dence that Rus­sia was pre­par­ing to send more tanks and ar­til­lery to the fight­ers in east­ern Ukraine.

With ten­ta­tive sup­port from Rus­sia and Ukraine’s Western al­lies, in­clud­ing the United States, the cease-fire pro­vides a brief op­por­tu­nity for the two sides to forge a more last­ing agree­ment for the first time since masked gun­men seized cit­ies through­out east­ern Ukraine more than two months ago.

Shortly af­ter the cease-fire was re­ported, the Krem­lin said Mr. Putin and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had spo­ken by phone, and that Mr. Putin stressed the im­por­tance of di­rect talks in eas­ing the cri­sis.

Main­tain­ing a truce in east­ern Ukraine will not be easy. There is lit­tle trust be­tween the gov­ern­ment in Kiev and the patch­work of mi­li­tias and re­bel­lious po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions that have laid siege to the east. Rebel lead­ers, in­clud­ing Mr. Boro­dai, had pre­vi­ously ac­cused Kiev of vi­o­lat­ing its own cease-fire, and in­ter­mit­tent fight­ing be­tween Ukrain­ian forces and rebel troops has con­tin­ued since Fri­day.

Those pres­ent at Mon­day’s meet­ing called it a “con­sul­ta­tion,” and un­der­lined that the talks were not ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Mr. Porosh­enko had pre­vi­ously said he would not ne­go­ti­ate with armed “ter­ror­ists,” and just last week held a meet­ing in Kiev with what his ad­min­is­tra­tion called the “le­git­i­mate” lead­ers of east­ern Ukraine to dis­cuss the peace plan be­fore he pub­licly de­clared the cease-fire.

“I’m happy that these talks took place, and that no­body un­der­took the res­o­lu­tion of the enor­mous com­plex of prob­lems be­fore us,” said Mr. Kuchma, who served as pres­i­dent of the coun­try from 1994 to 2005. If the cease-fire holds, he said, then “God will­ing, a peace pro­cess will be­gin.”

Russia - Eastern Europe - Europe - Barack Obama - Ukraine - Vladimir Putin - Russia government - Kiev - Ukraine government - Donetsk - Petro Poroshenko - Leonid Kuchma


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