Ukraine will extend a cease-fire in its fight against separatist rebels today after President Petro Poroshenko signed a European Union accord rejected by his predecessor that sent the country spiraling into crisis.
The government in Kiev will prolong the week-long truce, which it says has been repeatedly flouted by pro-Russian separatists, by 72 hours from an original plan to end it at 10 p.m. tonight, two European government officials said. The officials asked not to be named because the discussions were private and hadn’t finished. The extension will let talks continue on the release of hostages held by separatists in Ukraine’s eastern border regions, one official said.
Earlier, Poroshenko signed a free-trade pact with the 28-member EU at a summit in Brussels, while EU heads of government also prepared to discuss possible new sanctions against Russia. Poroshenko said that by signing the deal, Ukraine is underlining “its sovereign choice in favor of future membership of the EU.”
His government is also trying to bolster solidarity from richer nations to its west against what it calls aggression from Russia. It blames Russian President Vladimir Putin for supporting rebels and stoking violence that the United Nations says has killed more than 400 people.