Rumors Of A Ukrainian Cease Fire
The Presidents of Russia and Ukraine are apparently talking about a cease fire in Eastern Ukraine:
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, discussed a possible ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and the deaths of two Russian journalists there in a late night telephone conversation, the Kremlin said.
The conversation “touched on the theme of a possible ceasefire in the area of military action in southeastern Ukraine”, the Kremlin said in a statement.
It also said Putin had expressed his concern over the deaths of two Russian state television journalists, who were killed in shelling in clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists near the eastern city of Luhansk.
There are also indications that Poroshenko is thinking about implementing a unilateral cease fire:
MOSCOW — Ukrainian President Petro O. Poroshenko said on Wednesday that he was prepared to call a cease-fire by government troops as a step in ending a conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, Ukrainian and Russian news services reported.
The prospect of an end to the military action against pro-Russian rebels followed a phone call Tuesday night between Mr. Poroshenko and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in which a potential cease-fire was discussed.
Mr. Poroshenko, in an interview on Wednesday, said that he would order the cease-fire as soon as the border between Russia and Ukraine was secured, according to UNIAN, a Ukrainian news service.
“The plan will begin with my order for a unilateral cease-fire,” Mr. Poroshenko said, according to Interfax, the Russian news agency. According to UNIAN, Mr. Poroshenko said he believed that a cease-fire would then receive the support of “all illegal military units.”
he Kremlin, in a statement late Tuesday after the two leaders spoke by telephone, said, “The heads of state discussed current bilateral relations issues. They touched on the topic of a possible cease-fire in areas of southeastern Ukraine engaged in hostilities.” There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin on Mr. Poroshenko’s cease-fire plan.
Mr. Poroshenko’s office, in a statement Wednesday, confirmed the telephone call with Mr. Putin and said the presidents had discussed the conditions that could lead to a durable cease-fire.
“The president held phone talks with the Russian president in the context of implementing the president of Ukraine’s peace plan, including in relation to the de-escalation of the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” the Ukrainian statement said. “The presidents of Ukraine and Russia discussed a number of priority measures to be taken for a sustainable cease-fire, and the effective ways of monitoring it.”
The statement said Mr. Poroshenko had also urged Mr. Putin “to assist in the release of all detained journalists and activists.”
In a speech at the graduation of the National Defense University on Wednesday, Mr. Poroshenko described the conflict in eastern Ukraine as a new, more sinister brand of warfare. “This is a new type of war, using professional, subversive groups, mercenaries, volunteers, local people,” he said, according to the UNIAN news service. “These volunteers and the local people are brainwashed, with a large component of information warfare.”
Mr. Poroshenko expressed confidence that Ukraine would prevail in the fight. “We will win,” he said.
Russia has insisted that it does not control or speak for the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, but senior Russian officials, including the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, have insisted that the Ukrainian government must stop its military crackdown in the east and also expressed confidence that rebels would then put down their arms.
Obviously, when the Russians are making demands like this it kind of belies their claims that they don’t have control over the separatists in eastern Ukraine. In any case, the fact that the parties are talking is at least a hopeful sign that the election of Poroshenko, who was generally seen as having good relationships with Russian business and government interests despite his ties to Ukrainian nationalists when he ran for President, could lead to a calming of tensions on both sides in Ukraine.