Is Ukraine 'ceasefire' for real?
World markets jump after Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko announced that a ceasefire had been reached with Russia, but will it last?PT2M20S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3euao 620 349 September 4, 2014
Kiev: Russian President Vladimir Putin has listed seven steps he said were necessary for a ceasefire in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Putin said he and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, had a similar understanding about what was needed, and on Wednesday he urged Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists in the east to reach a settlement at talks scheduled for Friday in Belarus.
The primary conditions on Putin's list are that the separatists halt all offensive operations and that Ukrainian troops move their artillery back out of range of cities and large towns in the rebel-held area.
Vladimir Putin says he "sketched out" a peace plan during his flight from Moscow. Photo: AP
Putin also called for Ukraine to cease airstrikes; the establishment of an international monitoring mission and humanitarian aid corridors; an "all for all" prisoner exchange; and "rebuilding brigades" to repair damaged roads, bridges, power lines and other infrastructure.
His remarks came at a news conference during a state visit to Mongolia. After confirming that he had spoken with Poroshenko, Putin offhandedly mentioned that he had "sketched out" a peace plan during his flight from Moscow. An aide then handed Putin a notebook, from which he read the plan.
Putin offered his seven-point plan a day before the leaders of the NATO alliance, including President Barack Obama, are scheduled to meet in Newport, Wales, with the crisis in Ukraine at the top of the agenda. The alliance was expected to announce at the meeting that it would create a new rapid reaction force for defending its members in Eastern Europe, along with other measures.
A Ukrainian soldier gives a thumbs up on an armoured vehicle. Photo: AFP
Putin said he expected Ukraine and the separatists to announce an agreement by Friday. The two-day NATO summit is scheduled to conclude that day.
Earlier on Wednesday, there was confusion about whether Putin and Poroshenko had reached an agreement of their own. Poroshenko's office first issued and then retracted a statement saying that the two had agreed to a "lasting ceasefire". A spokesman for Poroshenko's office said the initial statement, posted on the presidential website, went too far in describing the results of a telephone call between the two leaders, and that the call had not produced a formal agreement. Following protocol, the spokesman did not give his name.
Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin's press secretary, said separately that Russia could not negotiate a ceasefire because it was not a party to the conflict but that the opinions of the two presidents overlapped.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Photo: Bloomberg
"Putin and Poroshenko did indeed discuss steps which could facilitate a ceasefire between the militias and the Ukrainian military," Peskov was quoted as saying by the news agency RIA Novosti. "Russia cannot physically agree on a ceasefire, as it is not a side in the conflict."
The West and Ukraine have accused Russia of providing arms and soldiers to support the separatists, an allegation that Putin has repeatedly denied.
Peskov said Putin and Poroshenko had "continued discussion regarding the military and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine".
They discussed "what should be done primarily to stop the bloodshed" in southeastern Ukraine, Peskov said, suggesting that the two leaders had found common ground.
"The presidents' viewpoints on possible ways to overcome the grave and critical situation coincide to a considerable degree," Peskov said.
Vladislav Brig, the head of the political department for the rebels' Ministry of Defence in Donetsk, said in a telephone conversation that combat operations were continuing as usual.
"Nobody is holding negotiations about a ceasefire with the representatives of the Donetsk People's Republic," Brig said. "As long as there are Ukrainian soldiers on our territory, there will be no ceasefire."
He echoed Peskov's statements in saying that Russia could not negotiate for the rebels.
"The conversation was about measures for a ceasefire," Brig said. "Mr Putin did not agree with Mr Poroshenko about any ceasefire because Russia is not involved in this conflict."
Brig said that the rebel leadership had not met to discuss the statement by Kiev.
Miroslav Rudenko, a member of the rebel parliament, suggested that the ceasefire might be a trick, but also suggested an openness to negotiations.
"If the Ukrainian side will hold to their promises to cease fire, then we are prepared for a political side of the settlement," he told the Russian news agency Interfax.
Obama, on a visit to Estonia on Wednesday, suggested that the real test would be whether Moscow was willing to rein in the separatists and stop its military support for them.
"If, in fact, Russia is prepared to stop financing, arming, training, in many cases joining with Russian troops activities in Ukraine and is serious about a political settlement, that is something we all hope for," Obama said at a televised news conference in Tallinn, the Estonian capital.
"We haven't seen a lot of follow-up on so-called announced ceasefires," Obama said after meeting with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia.
Obama's comments came as he began a day of private meetings with Baltic leaders and of public statements meant to reassure fretful allies - particularly those bordering Russia - that the United States and Europe were serious about defending them from a newly aggressive neighbour.
"There's an opportunity here - let's see if there's follow-up," Obama said. "No realistic political settlement can be achieved if effectively Russia says we are going to continue to send troops and arms and advisers."
Ilves said the Ukraine conflict and its wider impact on European security was "the question on everyone's mind".
"This is Russian aggression," Ilves said of Moscow's actions in eastern Ukraine. "Russia must admit that it is a party to the conflict and take genuine steps that will lead to a de-escalation of the conflict."
Obama's stop in Estonia came on the eve of a NATO summit meeting in Wales where members are expected to endorse a rapid-reaction force capable of deploying quickly to Eastern Europe, their strongest response yet to the situation in Ukraine. Over the weekend, Ukraine and NATO accused Russia of sending troops and armour over the border. European Union leaders then discussed a new round of sanctions against Russia, the fourth, that could be enacted within a week.
Russia has been escalating pressure on Ukraine, demanding that it grant some measure of autonomy to the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, where groups of armed militants have been demanding independence.
Until now, the administration in Kiev, the capital, has been reluctant to engage in such talks, arguing that the separatists are a Russian proxy force who do not represent the feelings of most of the people in the east.
But in recent days, the Ukrainian military has lost ground in the east. Ukraine has said the reverses were a result of the direct intervention of the Russian military. Russia denies sending men and arms across the border.
A shaky ceasefire reached in June between the government and the separatists collapsed after 10 days. Putin and Poroshenko met in Minsk, Belarus, last week, but no results were announced from that meeting, and within days the separatists opened a new front along the coast of Ukraine within days.
New York Times