Published time: September 03, 2014 12:19
Edited time: September 03, 2014 19:16
Kiev must withdraw troops from southeastern regions of Ukraine and rebels must stop offensive to stop bloodshed, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin says. He and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko discussed “a ceasefire regime.”
President Putin has outlined a seven-point plan to stabilize the situation in the crisis-torn east of Ukraine.
“On my way here from [the city of] Blagoveschensk to Ulan-Bator [Mongolia], I outlined some ideas and plan of actions. It’s here, but in handwriting,” Putin told reporters.
1. Militias should cease military advances in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.
2. Pro-Kiev armed forces should withdraw to a distance that excludes the possibility of shelling settlements.
3. Implement full and objective international control over ceasefire observation and monitoring.
4. Exclude the use of combat aircraft against civilians and villages.
5. Prisoner/captive-exchange via an ‘all-in-all’ formula, without preconditions.
6. Humanitarian corridors for refugees movement and delivery of humanitarian aid across Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.
7. Direct repair-crew access to destroyed social and transit infrastructure with supportive aid.
Putin expressed hope that final agreements between Kiev and militia in southeastern Ukraine could be reached and secured at the coming meeting of the so-called contact group on September 5.
“I hope the leaders of Ukraine will support the anticipated progress in bilateral relations,” Russia’s president said.
He called on Ukraine to take an active part in the work of the contact group “for a final and comprehensive settlement of the situation in the southeastern Ukraine, of course, with full and unconditional assurance of the legitimate rights of the people who live there.”
Commenting on the phone call with the Ukrainian president earlier on Wednesday, Putin stressed that their “views on ways to resolve the conflict are aligned.”
Later on Wednesday, the Ukrainian president expressed “great hope” that the peace process will start negotiations in Minsk on Friday.
“The first task is peace,” Poroshenko said. “Today at 5am, because of the time difference, we talked with President Putin about ways we could stop this horrible process. It is impossible to deny that people should being killed,” he added. The Ukrainian President stressed that all Ukrainians want peace and that is why he will strive for it.
Anti-Kiev militias say they are ready to lay down arms, but only if the same is done by all the government units fighting in the east of the country, said DPR Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko.
The political leader of the self-proclaimed republic noted that Kiev will have to obtain compliance from irregulars, such as Right Sector volunteer battalions, and mercenaries, who are also fighting on the side of the government.
“These have previously sabotaged existing deals,” said Zakharchenko.
The DPR leader said that the recent upturn in the rebels’ fortunes would improve the chances of striking a deal with Petro Poroshenko’s government.
Germany has supported the news that the two presidents are showing willingness to resolve the conflict, saying that Germany and the International community are ready to assist measures aimed at securing the ceasefire.
“Presidents Poroshenko and Putin are bearing responsibility not only for their nations, but all Europe,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Hamburg. He stressed that now it is important to take decisive steps to establish a ceasefire in Ukraine.
“We are ready to assist this path via either repeating the meeting in Geneva or through other international formats,” he added.
In Ukraine, meanwhile, Putin’s peace plan was met with criticism from the country’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenuk, who said that Russia’s real plan is to destroy Ukraine and restore the USSR.
“We are waiting for decisions from NATO and the EU on how to stop the aggressor,” he said.
In Yatsenuk’s opinion, Putin’s 7-point plan is “an attempt of eyewash for the International community ahead of NATO summit and an attempt to avoid inevitable decisions from the EU on the new wave of sanctions against Russia.”
The “best” for Ukraine would be a one-point plan, Yatsenuk stressed, which is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
“And then there will be peace,” the PM said.
Russia has repeatedly denied accusations of direct military involvement in the conflict.
So far, attempts at temporary ceasefires between Kiev and self-defense forces in the past months have failed to bring about any improvement in the situation in southeastern Ukraine. Each time fighting has continued, with both sides blaming each other for breaking the truce.
2,593 people have died in fighting in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, the UN reported last week.
The military conflict that started this spring has displaced over a million Ukrainians, with the majority of them finding refuge in Russia.
Kiev retracts ‘permanent’ ceasefire statement, says steps for establishing peace agreed
Kiev retracted its earlier statement regarding a “permanent ceasefire” in eastern Ukraine, which followed a phone call between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders. The new wording from Poroshenko’s office talks of a ceasefire “regime”.
The Russian and Ukrainian languages use the word to mean “mode”, signifying the possibility of a softer, less permanent version of the previous suggestion.
Although an earlier corresponding message from Poroshenko’s office initially talked of a “permanent ceasefire”, Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov underlined that this wording is not applicable because Russia isn’t a party to the violence.
“In the course of today’s phone call between Putin and Poroshenko there was indeed an exchange of views that went a long way toward an agreement on steps to be taken for a swift end to the clashes taking place between the Ukrainian military and south-eastern uprising,” Peskov said.
But the spokesperson thought it important to point out that because the conflict is an internal one – and not one between two countries. This view has already been voiced by President Putin last week in Minsk, where he met the Ukrainian leader.
“Frankly speaking, we can’t frame the discussion in ceasefire terms, those concerning any possible negotiations between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk – this isn’t any of our business, it is Ukraine’s,” the Russian president said then.
Donetsk authorities say they are willing to engage in a diplomatic settlement with Kiev if it proves its commitment to peace by stopping the shelling.
Ukraine’s Aydar battalion has acknowledged its readiness to carry out the order to cease fire, if such an order is given, its commander Sergey Melnichuk told local TV channel ‘112 Ukraine’.
Kiev’s bloody eastern Ukraine campaign LIVE UPDATES
The confrontation between the anti-government forces and the Ukrainian military, lasting over four months, has claimed the lives of around 2,500 people, according to UN estimates.
A million people have been displaced – the majority of them to Russia.
But the biggest toll was inflicted on the peaceful population in cities like Donetsk and Lugansk, who were left without energy, food, water or connection to the outside world.
While international condemnation was initially aimed at Russia in an attempt to blame it for the escalation, lately the balance has shifted to recognizing the often indiscriminate nature of Ukrainian military shelling of the eastern parts, which used high-powered weaponry forbidden by international law to be used in populated areas.
Human Rights Watch was the latest to condemn the use of such weapons and point to their presence as the major contributing factor to the high death toll in the area.