Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ended a cease-fire with separatists and pledged to retake the country’s easternmost regions as peace efforts faltered.
Poroshenko refused to extend the truce a second time, citing more than 100 violations by pro-Russian rebels, according to a statement on his website today.
“A unique chance for a peace plan failed because of the criminal acts of militants,” Poroshenko said in the statement. “We will attack and we will free our land. The protection of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the safety of its people require not only defense, but also attack.”
The Ukrainian leader, who has championed a peace plan to defuse the crisis since he took office last month, is embarking on a new offensive to put down the separatist unrest after ending a truce first announced June 20.
Poroshenko yesterday spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. It was the second such call in two days seeking a solution to the conflict that’s led to the deepest rift in Russia’s relations with the U.S. and the European Union since the end of communism.
“This will be a key test for the Ukrainian armed forces, and the first real test of the Poroshenko presidency,” Timothy Ash, an emerging-market economist at Standard Bank Plc (STAN) in London, said by e-mail. “Suffice to say that this crisis is now moving to a new and still very serious, high-risk phase.”
Putin will discuss the “priority tasks” of Russian diplomacy such as how to maintain global and regional stability and advance Russian national interests at a meeting with Russian ambassadors today, RIA Novosti reported, citing the Kremlin.
In a move aimed at easing tensions, Putin declared his readiness to allow Ukrainian border guards onto Russian soil to hold joint patrols in areas where separatists have seized three frontier posts, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. The president also agreed to extend a mission on the Russian side of the border by observers from the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, according to the German statement.
“They agreed that negotiations should be restarted as soon as possible between the contact group consisting of representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE and representatives of the separatists,” Seibert said in an e-mailed statement. “The primary aim should be agreement on a bilateral cease-fire.”
Poroshenko in his statement reiterated an offer to amnesty rebels who lay down their weapons and said his peace plan remains in force, including a call for disarmament and the free use of the Russian language. Russian lawmakers last week canceling Putin’s authorization to use force in Ukraine was “a positive, but symbolic move,” he said.
There had been 108 violations of that truce in eastern Ukraine since it was announced June 20, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
The EU told Putin last week he faced the threat of deeper sanctions if he didn’t rein in the rebels in the mainly Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk regions by yesterday. Statements from Germany and Hollande’s office yesterday made no mention of possible punitive measures.
Putin and Poroshenko also agreed to continue contacts on releasing prisoners and hostages taken by the two sides, according to the French statement.
The measures were intended to counter Ukrainian concerns that insurgent fighters and supplies and equipment for them are being brought across the border and help lead to a prolongation of the cease-fire, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
“We hope that this initiative of the Russian president will allow everyone on whom it depends to support and guarantee the extension of the truce,” Lavrov said in comments shown on Rossiya 24 television.
One Ukrainian soldier was killed yesterday during attacks by militants and eight were wounded, a military spokesman, Oleksiy Dmytrashkovskyi, told Ukrainian Channel 5 television.
A total of 27 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 69 wounded during the cease-fire, the Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.