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Ukraine rebels: We will honor the cease-fire


DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) - Insurgents in eastern Ukraine promised Monday to honor a cease-fire declared by the Ukrainian president and engage in more talks to help resolve the conflict that has left hundreds dead in eastern Ukraine.

The announcement came on the first day of talks between a former Ukrainian president, the Russian ambassador, European officials and the eastern separatists who have declared independence.

The negotiations were launched in line with President Petro Poroshenko's peace plan, which started with a weeklong unilateral cease-fire Friday to uproot the mutiny that has engulfed the nation's industrial east.

Alexander Borodai, one of the rebel leaders who took part in Monday's talks in Donetsk, said they would respect the one-week cease-fire declared by Poroshenko that lasts through 0700 GMT (2 a.m. EDT) Friday.

Rebels also promised to release observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe whom they have held hostage.

The insurgents had previously demanded the Ukrainian military withdraw its troops from the east as a condition for talks, so Borodai's statements represented a softening of their stance and raised expectations that the cease-fire could hold.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of fomenting the rebellion in the east by sending troops and weapons across the border, but Moscow has denied that and insisted that Russian citizens who joined the insurgents were volunteers.

The Ukrainian government has accused the rebels of firing at government forces' positions since the unilateral cease-fire was announced, while insurgents have accused the Ukrainian forces of failing to observe it. Poroshenko has said that government troops will fire back if attacked.

Poroshenko's office said Monday that he had offered Russia a chance to send its own observers to join the OSCE mission in Ukraine to see that government troops were observing the cease-fire.

Monday's talks involved Ukraine's ex-President Leonid Kuchma, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine and an envoy from the OSCE.

Russia has welcomed the peace plan but urged the Ukrainian government to engage in talks with the insurgents, who have seized official buildings, declared independence and fought government troops over the past two months. Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands have fled their homes.

Poroshenko has ruled out talks with those he calls "terrorists," so inviting Kuchma to mediate offered a way to conduct talks without the government's formal engagement.

Kuchma, who served as president from 1994-2005, comes from the east and is an astute political player respected by both sides. His ex-chief of staff, Viktor Medvedchuk, has lived in Russia and reportedly has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was also at the talks.

"If both sides hopefully observe it (the cease-fire), then a normal peace process could start," Kuchma told reporters after Monday's talks.

Putin publicly expressed support Sunday for Ukraine's declaration of a cease-fire and urged both sides to negotiate a compromise, which must guarantee the rights of the Russian-speaking residents of eastern Ukraine.

Putin clearly intends to maintain pressure on the Ukrainian government in Kiev to give the country's eastern industrial regions more powers, which would allow them to keep close ties with Russia and serve the Kremlin's main goal of preventing Ukraine from joining NATO.

But the Russian leader also wants to avoid more crippling sanctions from the U.S. and particularly from the European Union, whose leaders will meet Friday in Brussels, and therefore needs to be seen as cooperating with efforts to de-escalate the conflict.

Join the discussion

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bobzkaren June 23 2014 at 3:21 PM

Amazing - the US wasn't even involved in these talks. We are NOT the police of the world! Obama - John Kerry - are you listening? Seems that other countries in this world can negotiate for themselves, WITHOUT our involvement!!!

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2 replies
seeems bobzkaren June 23 2014 at 3:34 PM

who put the sanctions on russa I believe it was Mr. Obama

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dontcalld bobzkaren June 23 2014 at 3:45 PM

explain it to the repubs

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1 reply
wupton1651 dontcalld June 23 2014 at 5:00 PM

Dumbo it was Obama's advisers (19 of them Muslims) who asked for the FAKE sanctions! NO! I repeat, NOT Republicans. You are an idiot and a hater. Go somewhere else - like a bat cave!

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jaybe1333 June 23 2014 at 3:21 PM

I'm pretty sure Obama has no say on this decision! He is no leader.

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3 replies
revivalman June 23 2014 at 3:25 PM

A political game of chess between Europe and Russia over control of Ukraine has begun. Unfortunately a major piece, Crimea, has already been captured by Russia.

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1 reply
Welcome Justin revivalman June 23 2014 at 4:19 PM

That's odd, according to the Crimeans themselves, their region was liberated from a facist regime by Russia.

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muted3 June 23 2014 at 3:10 PM

It seems that diplomacy can work and war was not necessary. Way to go President Obama. Intelligent leadership not war.

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5 replies
Jim June 23 2014 at 3:38 PM

President Putin is playing Chess. Our President and his EU minions are playing checkers. King me!

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lsieminski June 23 2014 at 3:37 PM

wow cease fire without our troops and money...if we listened to the right wingers both would have been lost...TY Mr President

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5 replies
moller4444 June 23 2014 at 4:19 PM

To be honest, Putin is a tyrant, and we should oppose a resurgent Russia on general principles. But, Russia owned the Ukraine from the 1600's to 1991, so, will it really make that big a difference to history, or the balance of power, if they get it back? Probably not, in the long run.....

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Charlie June 23 2014 at 4:30 PM

Thinking the answer is to have America totally energy independent....we have the oil, the gas, and the reserves...only problem is we have a complete idiot for a president and a socialist democratic party that panders to the votes of the wacky tree hugging liberals...what a waste...

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1 reply
frankbvt Charlie June 23 2014 at 5:24 PM

Absolutely, we do need to be energy independent, but we must do it in ways other than those that involve the extraction and combustion of hydrocarbon based fuels. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy drinking your water mixed with oil. As far as the socialist criticism, I would like to remind you that the largest socialistic organization in America is the military. Also, socialism built the interstate highway system and the water supply and waste disposal systems in every municipality in America, it's called the "common good," you know, people working for the benefit of everyone.

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frwolos June 23 2014 at 4:18 PM

the free world like nato should make the ukraine a member like poland estonia and latvia
then mabe russia would live bt the rulls
the russians who live in the ukraine should go back to thier mother russia

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1 reply
natashachupilin0 frwolos June 23 2014 at 4:52 PM

Stupid thoughts, sorry you dont know history of that land and people who lives there. Sorry of you.

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Kate June 23 2014 at 3:31 PM

I sure hope that this is a step in the right direction, because killing each other isn't going to accomplish anything but death. There are many citizens of Ukraine who feel closer to Russia than Ukraine, and their rights have to be respected too. At the same time, it is natural that Ukraine does not want to become so divided that it is little more than a part of Russia.

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