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20 Jun, 2014 16:25

Ukraine president proclaims 7-day ceasefire, rolls out peace plan

Ukraine president proclaims 7-day ceasefire, rolls out peace plan

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has announced a unilateral ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, halting the so-called “anti-terrorist operation.” Anti-government activists must now lay down arms or be destroyed, the Interior Ministry said on its website.

READ MORE: Kiev’s army shelling kills 5yo boy & his mom in Slavyansk

The long-awaited ceasefire that will last till June 27 was announced by Poroshenko as the newly elected leader was talking with residents of Svyatogorsk city in Donetsk Region, the Interior Ministry said.

The Ukrainian troops will halt their offensive for a week, stopping shelling the cities and opening fire “unless the militants attack.

“The Ukrainian army halts fire! But this does not mean that we will not fight back in case of aggression against our military, we will do everything to protect the territory of our state,” Poroshenko said.

However, as the ceasefire ends, those who failed to lay down their weapons in eastern Ukraine “will be destroyed,” the website quoted Poroshenko as saying, referring to the self-defense fighters as “the terrorists.

Food shortages, no water & power: #Slavyansk humanitarian crisis worsening by day by day http://t.co/zs49OEl0ifpic.twitter.com/BkAMGJJvgf

— RT (@RT_com) June 19, 2014

The Ukrainian government will also start rebuilding the houses destroyed in the military operation at its own cost. One of the Ukrainian hotspots – the city of Slavyansk – has already been referred to as the local Stalingrad, as much of its buildings have been damaged or destroyed in relentless Ukrainian army shelling.

Peace plan: Disarmament, 10km buffer zone between Russia, Ukraine

The Ukrainian leader also presented the final version of a peace plan, which has included 15 steps,Poroshenko’s press-service said. An earlier draft leaked Thursday was one step shorter.

The plan promises amnesty and safe passage for all anti-government fighters in eastern Ukraine who lay down arms and free administrative buildings, but only for those who “have not committed grave crimes.

It suggests a 10-kilometer "buffer zone” on the Russian-Ukrainian border to be created, which will be “jointly patrolled.”

READ MORE: Russian checkpoint on Ukraine border comes under fire

In an attempt to appease the vocally anti-Kiev residents of eastern Ukraine, the plan promises “steps for decentralization of power” in the region, vaguely outlined by the press-service as the election of local executive boards, a guarantee of the Russian language’s protection, and “a project of changes to the Constitution.

The roadmap also implies holding early parliamentary election and local elections in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow: ‘No offer of negotiations in peace plan, looks like ultimatum’

Moscow has so far refrained from commenting on Poroshenko’s peace plan, as it was “thoroughly studying” the text and investigating the Friday shelling of a Russian checkpoint near the border with Ukraine.

However, a Kremlin source told Itar-Tass that the “initial review” showed that the plan was not so much of a peace plan, but rather an “ultimatum” to anti-government activists in south-eastern Ukraine.

“So far, the main element is missing – an offer to start negotiations,” the source told the agency.

Lugansk self-defense forces were, however, quick to respond to Poroshenko’s plan, saying that they refuse to lay down arms until Ukrainian troops leave the region.

“Our people will not lay down arms until Ukraine pulls out all troops from our territory,”
Valery Bolotov, the head of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, told AFP.

The European Union has welcomed Poroshenko’s peace plan in a communique.

“We commend President Poroshenko for his efforts and call on all sides to seize this long sought opportunity to reverse the trend of an ever worsening security and humanitarian situation in Eastern Ukraine,” the European External Action Service said in a statement.

Brussels then called on Russia “to use all its influence to this end and to support this plan publicly and through concrete actions.”