Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Russia, Ukraine to discuss cease-fire

KIEV, Ukraine — Russia and Ukraine said Wednesday they are working on a deal to halt months of fighting in eastern Ukraine, an announcement that threatened to upstage a crucial NATO summit on the crisis that has chilled East-West relations.

Western leaders expressed some skepticism over the plan, noting that it isn't the first attempt to establish a truce and earlier efforts had failed.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's office said after a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the two leaders have agreed on steps for a cease-fire.

In a televised statement, Putin spelled out a seven-point plan for ending hostilities in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists scored significant gains last week against government forces after four months of fighting.

Putin, speaking on a visit to Mongolia, said the rebels should halt their offensive and the Ukrainian government forces should pull back to a distance that would make the use of artillery and rockets against residential areas impossible. He also urged international monitoring of a cease-fire, a prisoners exchange and the delivery of humanitarian aid to war-ravaged regions.

Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe could finalize the peace deal as early as Friday, Putin said.

Poroshenko also voiced hope that Friday's talks in Belarus' capital of Minsk would allow both sides to "take real steps to achieve peace."

He discussed the plan with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying it should include the OSCE monitoring of a cease-fire, the withdrawal of foreign troops, a buffer zone on the border and the release of all Ukrainian prisoners held in Russia, according to his office.

The Ukrainian leader met with Putin in Minsk last week, but they didn't announce any agreement after that session.

Ukrainian officials said the bodies of 87 soldiers had been retrieved from the area near Ilovaysk, the scene of a horrific government defeat over the weekend. Ukraine and the West said the rebel offensive was spearheaded by regular Russian army units — an allegation Moscow has rejected.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday dismissed the Kremlin denials, saying "Russian combat forces with Russian weapons in Russian tanks" were in eastern Ukraine.

On a trip to Estonia to reassure allies along Russia's border, Obama said it was too early to say if the announced truce could hold, noting that "we haven't seen a lot of follow-up on so-called announced cease-fires."

Obama left Estonia for Wales, where he and other Western leaders will attend a NATO summit that starts today. The alliance is expected to approve plans to station more troops and equipment in Eastern Europe, with the aim of building a rapid response force that could deploy within 48 hours.

Even if the cease-fire holds, negotiating a lasting peace in the east will be a daunting challenge in the conflict, which the U.N. estimates has killed nearly 2,600 people and forced more than 340,000 to flee their homes.

Rebels have dropped a demand for full independence, saying they are ready to discuss remaining part of Ukraine in exchange for broad autonomy in the mostly Russian-speaking regions in the east — a stance that reflects Putin's desire to maintain leverage over its neighbor and prevent it from ever joining NATO.

Russia, Ukraine to discuss cease-fire 09/03/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 10:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Southern Heritage group draws fire for posting personal information of Confederate statue opponents

    Politics

    TAMPA — Curtiss Wilson is an 89-year-old Tampa resident who fought in the civil rights movement.

    A report by Save Southern Heritage Florida includes the "affiliation" of more than 100 people who spoke at the July 19 commission meeting in favor of removing  the Confederate monument from in front of the old county courthouse in Tampa. People on the list say the report was meant to intimidate and harrass opponents of the monument. Save Southern Heritage director Doug Guetzloe said the report is "opposition research" meant to to inform elected officials about who was speaking on the issue.
[Save Southern Heritage Florida]
  2. Gen. Votel interview: 'A bit of a stalemate' in Afghanistan, but a chance to optimize gains there

    Military

    In developing the plan for the war in Afghanistan that he announced Monday night, President Donald Trump consulted with advisers including his military leaders throyugh their chain of command.

  3. Water Street Tampa unveils illustrations showing downtown's transformation

    Business

    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  4. Bill Nelson shares Rick Scott's cautious stance on Confederate monuments

    Blogs

    On the issue of Confederate monuments, Sen. Bill Nelson is taking the cautious route of Gov. Rick Scott.

  5. St. Pete Beach to vote on loosening drinking rules for hotel guests

    News

    ST. PETE BEACH — The city commission will vote Tuesday night whether to allow alcohol on the beach.

    Registered hotel guests would be able to drink alcoholic beverages at their cabanas on the beach under a new rule the St. Pete Beach City Commission is considering. [Times files]