Ukraine president offers cease-fire

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Ukraine president offers cease-fire
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, background left, inspects a Ukrainian military base close to Slovyansk, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, June 20, 2014. Clashes between government forces and pro-Russian separatist fighters flared ahead of the publication of a presidential peace plan that includes a unilateral cease-fire. (AP Photo/Mykhailo Markiv, Pool)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, talks with the Ukrainian soldiers at a military base close to Slovyansk, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, June 20, 2014. Clashes between government forces and pro-Russian separatist fighters flared ahead of the publication of a presidential peace plan that includes a unilateral cease-fire. (AP Photo/Mykhailo Markiv, Pool)
Smoke rises from the burning furniture factory after a mortar attack from Ukrainian government troops in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's inaugural address after taking the oath of office in parliament gave little sign of a quick resolution to the conflict in the east, which Ukrainian officials say has left more than 200 people dead. (AP Photo/Andrei Petrov)
Firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire at the burning furniture factory after a mortar attack from Ukrainian government troops in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's inaugural address after taking the oath of office in parliament gave little sign of a quick resolution to the conflict in the east, which Ukrainian officials say has left more than 200 people dead. (AP Photo/Andrei Petrov)
Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema (R) and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov examine a map prior to a National Security and Defence Council sitting in Kiev on June 16, 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said during the opening of the sitting that a ceasefire was the beginning of his peace plan for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, meets with acting Ukrainian Defense Minister Mykhailo Koval, center, in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Ukraine's president said Wednesday that government forces will unilaterally cease fire to allow pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country a chance to lay down weapons or leave the country, a potential major development to bring peace to the country. (AP Photo/Mykhailo Markiv, pool)
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (L) and Defence Minister Mykhaylo Koval arrive for a National Security and Defence Council sitting in Kiev on June 16, 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said during the opening of the sitting that a ceasefire was the beginning of his peace plan for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (L) and Defence Minister Mykhaylo Koval arrive for a National Security and Defence Council sitting in Kiev on June 16, 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said during the opening of the sitting that a ceasefire was the beginning of his peace plan for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko arrives for a National Security and Defence Council sitting in Kiev on June 16, 2014. Poroshenko said during the opening of the sitting that a ceasefire was the beginning of his peace plan for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks during a National Security and Defence Council sitting in Kiev on June 16, 2014. Poroshenko said during the opening of the sitting that a ceasefire was the beginning of his peace plan for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks during a National Security and Defence Council sitting in Kiev on June 16, 2014. Poroshenko said during the opening of the sitting that a ceasefire was the beginning of his peace plan for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (2nd L) speaks during a National Security and Defence Council sitting in Kiev on June 16, 2014, flanked by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (3rd L) and speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Oleksandr Turchynov (L). Poroshenko said during the opening of the sitting that a ceasefire was the beginning of his peace plan for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-Russian militants look through the debris of an IL-76 Ukrainian military transporter which was taken down by pro-Russian rebels early on June 14, on the outskirts of Lugansk June 14, 2014. Ukraine's new Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko vowed Saturday to deliver an 'adequate response' to pro-Russian rebels who downed a military transport plane, killing 49 troops. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
A boy sits on a barricade to be demolished next to Ukranian police forces (R) outside the headquarters of separatist militias of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on June 13, 2014. Ukrainian forces said they had hoisted the national flag over the strategic rebel-held port of Mariupol on June 13 in their biggest advance since Petro Poroshenko's election as the insurgency-wrecked country's pro-Western president. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
SLAVYANSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 9: Several buildings were damaged by a mortar attack of Ukrainian government troops in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine on June 9, 2014. Buildings have been damaged by shelling in Slavyansk, controlling by pro-Russian separatists as Ukraines newly sworn-in President Petro Poroshenko and Russian and European officials have discussed proposals to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. (Photo by Alexander Ermochenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIEV, UKRAINE - JUNE 07: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko (C), takes part in inaugural festivities at St. Sophia Square on June 7, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine. Poroshenko was elected on May 25 with a majority in the country's first round of presidential voting. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
FILE- In this Saturday, June 7, 2014 file photo Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lights a candle in St. Sophia Cathedral after his inauguration in Kiev, Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Wednesday, June 18, 2014, that government forces will unilaterally cease fire to allow pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country a chance to lay down weapons or leave the country, a move that follows his conversations with Russian and German leaders. (AP Photo/Mykola Lazarenko, Pool, file)
A masked man, soldier of the volunteer Ukrainian army 'Donbass' battalion, takes part in a rally by Maidan activists at Independence Square in Kiev, calling upon the Ukrainian President to abandon the cease-fire with armed pro-Russia separatists in the east of the country, on June 29, 2014. A spokesman for the Ukraine army's eastern military campaign stated five Ukrainian troops were killed and at least 17 wounded over the past 24 hours in the eastern regions of the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will join Ukraine's new leader on a call today to Russia's Vladimir Putin before Kiev's shaky truce with pro-Kremlin separatists expires. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds a sign reading 'We chat - they kill !' as he and other people take part in a rally by Maidan activists at Independence Square in Kiev, calling upon the Ukrainian President to abandon the cease-fire with armed pro-Russia separatists in the east of the country, on June 29, 2014. A spokesman for the Ukraine army's eastern military campaign stated five Ukrainian troops were killed and at least 17 wounded over the past 24 hours in the eastern regions of the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will join Ukraine's new leader on a call today to Russia's Vladimir Putin before Kiev's shaky truce with pro-Kremlin separatists expires. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
People shouts slogans as they take part in a rally by Maidan activists at Independence Square in Kiev, calling upon the Ukrainian President to abandon the cease-fire with armed pro-Russia separatists in the east of the country, on June 29, 2014. A spokesman for the Ukraine army's eastern military campaign stated five Ukrainian troops were killed and at least 17 wounded over the past 24 hours in the eastern regions of the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will join Ukraine's new leader on a call today to Russia's Vladimir Putin before Kiev's shaky truce with pro-Kremlin separatists expires. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Women hold signs reading 'The cease-fire is killing !', ' The traitors are in power again' and 'Down with parliament' as they take part in a rally by Maidan activists at Independence Square in Kiev, calling upon the Ukrainian President to abandon the cease-fire with armed pro-Russia separatists in the east of the country, on June 29, 2014. A spokesman for the Ukraine army's eastern military campaign stated five Ukrainian troops were killed and at least 17 wounded over the past 24 hours in the eastern regions of the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will join Ukraine's new leader on a call today to Russia's Vladimir Putin before Kiev's shaky truce with pro-Kremlin separatists expires. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
An elderly resident walks past a house destroyed by shelling in the besieged city of Slaviansk on June 24, 2014. Separatists of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' in Slavyansk are surrounded by Ukrainian forces and have been enduring daily shelling for over two months. Ukraine's new Western-backed leader sought urgent talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 25, 2014 after rebels shot down an army helicopter despite ceasefire orders from their own commander to observe a fragile truce. The death of nine servicemen outside the pro-Russian stronghold city of Slavyansk and loss of two other soldiers in attacks by separatist gunmen prompted Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to threaten to unleash a powerful new military campaign in the industrial east. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents walk outside a house wrecked by shelling in the besieged city of Slaviansk on June 24, 2014. Separatists of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' in Slavyansk are surrounded by Ukrainian forces and have been enduring daily shelling for over two months. Ukraine's new Western-backed leader sought urgent talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 25, 2014 after rebels shot down an army helicopter despite ceasefire orders from their own commander to observe a fragile truce. The death of nine servicemen outside the pro-Russian stronghold city of Slavyansk and loss of two other soldiers in attacks by separatist gunmen prompted Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to threaten to unleash a powerful new military campaign in the industrial east. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
A soldier of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' shows shrapnel from a shell in a heavily shelled neighbourhood in the besieged city of Slaviansk on June 24, 2014. Separatists of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' in Slavyansk are surrounded by Ukrainian forces and have been enduring daily shelling for over two months. Ukraine's new Western-backed leader sought urgent talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 25, 2014 after rebels shot down an army helicopter despite ceasefire orders from their own commander to observe a fragile truce. The death of nine servicemen outside the pro-Russian stronghold city of Slavyansk and loss of two other soldiers in attacks by separatist gunmen prompted Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to threaten to unleash a powerful new military campaign in the industrial east. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
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By David McHugh

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - The Ukrainian president on Wednesday announced a plan to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine, promising a unilateral cease-fire after discussions with the Russian and German leaders, a potential major development to bring peace to the country.

Petro Poroshenko's plan would offer pro-Russian insurgents in the eastern provinces that form the nation's industrial heartland a chance to lay down weapons or leave the country. It could also help ease the worst crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War, which was triggered by Moscow's annexation of Crimea that followed the ouster of Ukraine's pro-Russia president.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed a possible cease-fire in a phone conversation with Poroshenko late Tuesday, the Kremlin said. Poroshenko also discussed his peace plan with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, their offices said.

"The plan will begin with my order for a unilateral cease-fire," Poroshenko told reporters in Kiev. "I can say that the period of the cease-fire will be rather short. We anticipate, that immediately after this, the disarming of the illegal military formations will take place."

He said that those who lay down arms and haven't committed grave crimes will be granted amnesty.

Poroshenko made repeated promises of steps to restore peace before and after winning May's election. In his inaugural address June 7, he said he was willing to negotiate with people in the region, but not with "terrorists" with "blood on their hands."

Rebel leaders have remained defiant, saying they would demand the Ukrainian troops withdraw from the east as the main condition for talks.

Denish Pushilin, one of the insurgent leaders in Donetsk, said on Russian independent Dozhd television that Poroshenko's latest offer was "senseless."

"They cease fire, we lay down weapons, and then they will capture us weaponless," he said.

Poroshenko has said before that he wanted a cease-fire, but Wednesday was the first time he said government forces will be the first to halt hostilities, which has been Russia's main demand.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, speaking in Baku, Azerbaijan, said that any cease-fire should be "comprehensive," not temporary. However, he said that if it was followed by negotiations "then it could be the step President Poroshenko has promised and which in general we were all waiting for."

The announcement of a unilateral cease-fire seems to be part of a carefully choreographed plan with Russian and German involvement, coming at a time when key leaders of the mutiny were meeting with Russian officials.

In another move that would help appease Moscow, Poroshenko nominated Pavel Klimkin, currently ambassador to Germany, to replace Andriy Deshchytsia as foreign ninister. Lavrov had said he would never speak again to Deshchytsia after he joined in an obscene anti-Putin chant as he tried to calm protesters who besieged the Russian Embassy in Kiev last weekend.

Poroshenko didn't say when the cease-fire could be declared, but the country's defense minister, Mykhailo Koval, was quoted as saying it could begin "literally within days."

Poroshenko has said previously that a cease-fire should follow securing the border with Russia, and Ukrainian officials said Wednesday they were completing the effort.

Russia has denied Ukrainian and Western claims that it was fomenting the insurgency in the east by sending troops and weapons, insisting that Russian nationals among the rebels are volunteers.

If Poroshenko's plan is implemented, that would allow the Kremlin a face-saving way out of the crisis. Putin appears to be eager to de-escalate tensions with the West and avoid a new round of crippling economic sanctions, but has been increasingly under fire from nationalist groups at home who have demanded that he send troops into eastern Ukraine.

An end to fighting and a safe exit for rebels would allow Putin to say that Russia has fulfilled its goal of protecting Russian speakers in Ukraine. Poroshenko, in his turn, also would be able to claim victory over the rebellion.

For Ukraine, an end to hostilities in the east would be essential to shore up the struggling economy and try to mend the rift between the eastern regions where most residents want close ties with Russia, and the west where the majority wants a quick integration into Europe.

If Poroshenko's plan succeeds, that would allow him to consolidate his power and help set ground for early parliamentary elections he has demanded.

Any such cease-fire, however, would raise the question of whether the separatists would respect it, and whether Russia had the desire or the ability to persuade them to do so. Top rebel figures visited Moscow Tuesday and met with senior officials and lawmakers.

Alexander Borodai, a Moscow political consultant who is self-proclaimed prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, attended a meeting with lawmakers in the Russian parliament's upper house on Tuesday, thanking Russia for "a steady flow of volunteers coming from Russia who fight for the interests of people of Donbass."

At the same time, he acknowledged that "part of the Russian establishment does not want Donbass and other regions of Ukraine join Russia."

Borodai added that he does not see any peaceful steps on Kiev's behalf, only "efforts to suppress the will of the people of Donbass and their choice of self-determination."

The insurgency in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions flared up in mid-April, with rebels, emboldened by Russia's annexation of Crimea, seizing government buildings and declaring independence for their provinces after controversial referendums that were rejected by Ukraine and the West. They have pushed for joining Russia, but Putin has stonewalled their demands.

Ukrainian government forces have struggled to suppress the insurgents, who on Saturday shot down a military transport plane, killing all 49 on board.

The U.N. says at least 356 people, including 257 civilians, have been killed since May 7 alone. There have been more than 200 reports of torture, and 81 people were being held on June 7 as the conflict raged in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russia separatist rebels and the government in Kiev.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said in Wednesday's report that the country's "climate of insecurity and fear" has displaced 34,000 people. "Abductions, detentions, acts of ill-treatment and torture, and killings by armed groups are now affecting the broader population of the two eastern regions," the report said.

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Nataliya Vasilyeva and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, John Heilprin in Geneva and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

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