Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday announced a week-long ceasefire in the fight against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, his website said.
“Ukrainian army, cease fire!” it quoted him as telling military officers during a visit to the centre of the “anti-terrorist operation” in the east. “But this does not mean that we will not fight back in the event of aggression towards our military. We will do everything to defend the territory of our state,” the website quoted him as adding. The ceasefire would begin Friday and last until June 27.
Poroshenko, who has said the declaration of a ceasefire will allow him formally to launch a peace plan for the region, spoke after receiving a report from an army commander that the border with Russia was defended.
EAST UKRAINE: SEPARATISTS SUFFER 'HEAVY LOSSES'
Fighting raged for a second successive day in the east of Ukraine on Friday, a day after clashes in which Ukrainian government forces said about 300 separatists were killed.
The casualty figures for the pro-Russian separatists could not be independently confirmed though a rebel commander said on Thursday the rebels had sustained “heavy losses” when they were outgunned by government forces backed by heavy armour.
The government forces said seven of their own number had been killed in Thursday’s fighting. The new fighting on Friday was about 100 kilometres from the border with Russia.
UNITED STATES: NEW NAMES ADDED TO SANCTIONS BLACKLIST
The United States blacklisted seven separatists in Ukraine on Friday and threatened “scalpel” sanctions on Russia’s financial, defence and high-tech industries as more Russian military material has flowed into Ukraine.
The U.S. moves respond to what American officials say is Russia’s recent increase in support to Ukrainian separatists, including the provision of Russian tanks and the preparation of more to cross into eastern Ukraine.
The U.S. Treasury named seven people, including separatist leaders in Donetsk, Slavyansk, Luhansk and the Crimean city of Sevastopol, whose assets under U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen and with whom U.S. individuals and firms will be generally barred from dealing. The Treasury identified one of the seven as a Russian citizen but gave no information on the citizenship of the other six.
MOSCOW: RUSSIA DENIES BORDER BUILDUP
The Kremlin on Friday denied a statement by NATO suggesting Russia was building up troops on the frontier with Ukraine but said Moscow had brought in more border guards because of security concerns.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that at least a few thousand more Russian troops were now at the frontier, and called it a regrettable step backwards following an earlier withdrawal from the border.
“There has been no buildup,” Yuri Ushakov, President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy adviser, told reporters. He said Russia was concerned about security at the border and added: “This means just the border guards are getting a few reinforcements, and troops have been withdrawn.”
KRASNY LIMAN: ‘MILITARY ACTION IS CONTINUING’
Fighting broke out just east of the town of Krasny Liman early on Thursday after pro-Russian separatists refused to lay down their weapons in line with Poroshenko’s proposed peace plan, the government forces said.
The government forces have been gradually squeezing rebels in the area though separatists, who rose up against central rule from Kiev following the overthrow of a president sympathetic to Moscow, still control the strategic city of Slavyansk.
Vladyslav Seleznyov, a spokesman for Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation,” said about 300 separatists had been killed in action around the villages of Yampil and Zakitne, which included artillery fire and air attacks. Heavy weapons had been seized from the separatists, including an armored personnel carrier, a truck with a high-caliber machine gun mounted on it, a shoulder-launched missile, grenade launchers and small arms, Seleznyov said on his Facebook page.
“Losses to Ukrainian servicemen are seven dead and 30 wounded. Military action is continuing,” Seleznyov said.
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