Ukraine announces unilateral, 7-day cease-fire

(USA TODAY) Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko announced on Friday a unilateral one-week cease-fire by his anti-terrorist forces to allow pro-Russian rebels in the eastern regions to disarm or leave the country.

Poroshenko called the 7-day cease-fire, which was to begin later on Friday, a first-step in a larger agreement, not only giving separatists a chance to disarm, but also for pro-Russia rebels to leave the country, the Kiev Post reports.

He called on separatists to lay down their weapons, or else be "destroyed," the President said.

"The forces of the anti-terrorist operation will halt military action starting today and through June 27," Poroshenko was cited as saying by the Interior Ministry on its website.

Speaking to parliament, Poroshenko said the cease-fire would be followed by talks, new local elections and a jobs program.

He warned, however, that government forces will return fire if fired upon during the period.

VIDEO: Fighting continues in eastern Ukraine despite cease fire

"Combat action will only be of retaliatory character if rebels attack our forces," the president said.

Russia has called for the Ukrainian government to end its crackdown on insurgents as a prelude to an easing of tensions.

Poroshenko discussed his peace plan with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call, according to the Ukrainian presidential press service, Interfax reports.

"The President of Ukraine has outlined key positions and a time frame for the implementation of a peace plan in the east of the state. Poroshenko stressed the need to release people held hostage and establish an effective regime to control the Ukraine-Russia border," the press service said.

Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin on Friday said that it was "premature" to say whether Moscow supports Poroshenko's peace plan, as it has not been yet released, reports.

An Associated Press reporter saw pro-Russia fighters moving in a column with two tanks and three armored personnel carriers near the town of Yanakiyeve in the direction of Horlivka in the separatist Donetsk region. The tanks flew small flags of a pro-Russia militia but otherwise had no markings. The fighters declined to say what they were doing, other than it was a "secret operation."

On Thursday, government security forces claimed to have killed about 300 separatists in fierce clashes 60 miles from the border with Russia, the Reuters news agency reported. The government said seven from its own military forces were killed.

CRISIS IN UKRAINE: Rebels beg Russia for help as Ukraine fighting rages

Poroshenko earlier this week had called for a unilateral ceasefire and also said that he will sign an association agreement with the European Union on June 27.


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