Ukraine's president faces decision on cease-fire

2014-06-30 18:03
(Mykola Lazarenko, AP, Presidential Press Service, Pool)

(Mykola Lazarenko, AP, Presidential Press Service, Pool)

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Kiev - Ukraine's president faced a decision on Monday on whether to extend a shaky cease-fire with pro-Russia rebels in the country's east, as European leaders pressed Russia to help de-escalate the simmering conflict.

President Petro Poroshenko has already extended the cease-fire from seven days to 10 as part of a peace plan to end the conflict that has killed more than 400 people. National security spokesperson Andriy Lysenko said the presidential decision would come before the cease-fire expires at 22:00.

Sporadic fighting still flared on Monday despite the cease-fire. Shelling killed at least two people and ruined several apartments in the rebel-held city of Slovyansk in the eastern separatist region of Donetsk.

Poroshenko has demanded that rebels return posts along the Russia border to Ukrainian control and allow international monitors to verify the cease-fire. Rebels in the past have kidnapped several teams of monitors.

Rebels not laying down

European leaders have pressed Russia to help de-escalate the situation or face the possibility of additional economic sanctions. A four-way phone call was to take place on Monday among Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

The four also spoke for two hours on Sunday as Poroshenko struggled to get his peace plan past a wobbly start. Ukraine says the rebels are still attacking and locals protested near Poroshenko's office in Kiev on Sunday, demanding military action against the separatists.

Poroshenko says his unilateral cease-fire is a first step to give rebels a chance to lay down their arms. Further steps would include an amnesty for separatists who have not committed serious crimes, early local elections and changes in the constitution to decentralise power to Ukraine's regions.

In Slovyansk, shooting kept up through the night and into Monday morning. Residents saying the army appeared to start shelling after rebels opened fire. Heavy shelling was heard throughout the town from 06:00 to 07:00.

Some of the shelling appeared to be directed at rebel front-line positions outside the city while other shells landed in a residential neighbourhood, destroying or damaging several buildings.

Civilian deaths 

One woman, 62-year-old Vera Sayenko, died when a shell hit her ninth floor apartment, neighbours told an AP journalist.

"Everything we have collected in our life is destroyed. We have become poor," said Valery, whose apartment was also destroyed. He would not give his last name. "Show all Ukrainians what happened here. What else do they want, to ruin the town and kill people?"

Ukrainian police and prosecutors were investigating the death of a cameraman working for Russia's Channel One. Anatoly Klyan, aged 68, was fatally wounded when a bus carrying journalists and soldiers' mothers was hit by gunfire.

Channel One said its crew was travelling late on Sunday to a Ukrainian military base with the mothers of conscripts hoping to bring their sons home when their bus came under attack near Avdiivka, a village north of the city of Donetsk.

Channel One said the trip was organised by the rebels and that the bus, whose driver was wearing camouflage, came under fire as it approached the military base in the dark.

Russia's Foreign Ministry blamed the attack on Ukrainian soldiers and demanded an objective investigation. Klan was the fifth journalist to die since the fighting began in April.

- AP
Read more on:    francois hollande  |  angela merkel  |  petro poroshenko  |  vladimir putin  |  russia  |  ukraine
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