June 19, 2014 08:10
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proposed instituting a unilateral cease-fire in eastern Ukraine as part of a peace plan to address months of conflict in the region.
Russian news agencies quoted Poroshenko on Wednesday as saying the cease-fire would give separatist fighters the opportunity to disarm and those who want to leave the country a chance to get out.
His comments come a day after he discussed a possible cease-fire in a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Their conversation was only the second known direct contact between leaders of the two countries since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March. Pro-Russian separatists have since mounted a rebellion in Ukraine's east, and Moscow has cut off natural gas supplies to its neighbor over unpaid gas debt.
Meanwhile, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights accused the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine of creating a climate of insecurity that is ruining their own region. In a new report, the office says the human rights situation has deteriorated significantly in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where the rebels have declared so-called "people's republics."
A UN human rights official, Gianni Magazzeni, said Wednesday that armed groups in those areas have created "a reign of fear if not a reign of terror."
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Wednesday that officials believe an explosive device was responsible for a blast at a pipeline carrying Russian gas to the rest of Europe.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called Wednesday's explosion "sabotage" that he said was designed to undermine Ukraine's reputation as a reliable partner in transferring energy.
"That's why it's absolutely clear who is interested in damaging trust in Ukraine's gas transport system. Ukraine declares that it is a reliable transit country, we carried out and will carry out all our obligations in the sphere of transporting natural gas," said Yatsenyuk.
The blast, about 200 kilometers east of Kyiv, came as Moscow and Kyiv face a stalemate over natural gas pricing that led Moscow on Monday to cut supplies to its neighbor. Analysts say an extended cutoff could interfere with gas deliveries across a wide area of Eastern Europe and beyond.
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