Ukrainian President Ends Cease-Fire
‘Peace is, was and will be my goal,’ he added. ‘Only the instruments of achieving it are changing.’
Published: July 2, 2014 (Issue # 1818)
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was abandoning a unilateral cease-fire in the conflict with pro-Russian separatists and sending military forces back on the offensive after talks with Russia and European leaders failed to start a broader peace process.
Poroshenko’s decision, announced shortly after the much-violated 10-day cease-fire expired, raises the prospect of renewed escalation of a conflict that has killed more than 400 people.
A grave Poroshenko made a televised address early Tuesday vowing that “we will attack, and we will free our country.” The cease-fire expired at 10 p.m. Monday.
The idea behind the truce announced June 20 was to give pro-Russian rebels a chance to disarm and to start a broader peace process including an amnesty and new elections.
But rebels did not disarm, and the cease-fire was continually violated, with both sides blaming each other. “The unique chance to put the peace plan into practice was not realized,” Poroshenko said. “This happened because of the criminal actions of the fighters.” He said the militants violated the truce “more than a hundred times.”
Poroshenko said the government was ready to go back to the cease-fire “at any moment, when we see that all sides are keeping to the basic points of the peace plan.”
“Peace is, was and will be my goal,” he added. “Only the instruments of achieving it are changing...The defense of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, of the security and lives of peaceful citizens, demands not just defensive but offensive action against the terrorist militants.”
Poroshenko said he made the decision after a meeting of the national security council. “After discussion of the situation, I, as commander in chief, took the decision not to continue the unilateral cease-fire.”
“Ending the cease-fire, this is our answer to terrorists, armed insurgents and looters, to all who mock the peaceful population, who are paralyzing the economy of the region...who are depriving people of a normal, peaceful life,” Poroshenko said in his speech.
Poroshenko’s decision followed four-way talks in search of a solution with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Monday as the deadline approached. He issued a statement after the talks ended, saying the key conditions needed to continue the cease-fire had not been met.
While Putin has expressed support for the cease-fire, the West has accused Russia of sending weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine. Russia says any Russians there have gone as private citizens.
Poroshenko said he meant for a cease-fire to be followed by an amnesty for fighters who had not considered serious crimes, and political concessions such as early local and regional elections, protections for speakers of Russian and, in the longer term, changes to the constitution to decentralize power to the regions.
The end of the cease-fire raises the question of what action the Ukrainian military can take. It has so far been unable to dislodge rebels occupying the city of Slovyansk or to retake control of three key border crossings with Russia. At one point, the rebels shot down a government military transport, killing 49 service members.