Eastern Ukraine militia announces unilateral cease-fire

CCTV News

This file photo taken on October 5, 2015 shows tanks of the Ukrainian forces riding from the front line near the village of Crymske in the Lugansk region. (AFP PHOTO / Aleksander Gayuk) This file photo taken on October 5, 2015 shows tanks of the Ukrainian forces riding from the front line near the village of Crymske in the Lugansk region. (AFP PHOTO / Aleksander Gayuk)

Pro-independence militia in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday agreed to a unilateral cease-fire starting at midnight Wednesday. The Trilateral Contact Group – the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and representatives from the self-proclaimed eastern Ukraine republics, Donetsk and Luhansk – agreed to the need for a ceasefire in August. The original target date for the ceasefire was September 1st.

CCTV America could not reach Ukrainian officials in Kiev or Washington, DC for comment. The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not yet posted a statement about the ceasefire on its website.

The rebel announcement came just a few hours after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he expects the parliament to vote soon on constitutional amendments granting autonomy to eastern Ukraine.

“Decentralization is a policy that has no alternative,” Poroshenko reportedly tweeted Tuesday. According to the Associated Press, Poroshenko said, “I expect the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian parliament] to support the constitutional amendments regarding decentralization.”

Poroshenko’s office also announced Tuesday that he will be meeting the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Poland, and Britain this week.

More than 9,500 people have died in the two-year-old armed conflict between Russian-backed eastern separatists and Ukrainian government troops. Ukraine and the opposition groups signed peace accords in Minsk, Belarus, in 2015 but the terms were not honored. Previous ceasefires collapsed. Over the weekend, the Ukrainian media reported an estimated 30 ceasefire violations on Saturday alone.

It’s the first time that the separatists have proposed a unilateral cease-fire.

German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said that after talking with Ukraine and Russia on Monday he believes it is possible “to agree now, and without preconditions, on a durable ceasefire.”

Story by Xinhua, the Associated Press, and Reuters, with information from The Washington Post, Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kyiv Post, BBC News, USA Today, CTV News.