Putin Announces Ceasefire Deal With Ukraine

Ukraine Presidentukraine, Vladimir Putin, has announced ceasefire after meeting all night in Belarus with leaders of Russia, France and Germany, to secure a peace deal. The leaders of Russia and Ukraine have announced that ceasefire will begin in Eastern Ukraine on 15 February.

After marathon talks with leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany, Russia President, Vladimir Putin said “We have managed to agree on the main issues.”

French President, Francois Hollande also said it was a “serious deal” but not everything had been agreed.

The meeting in Belarus – which began on Wednesday – was focused on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone in Eastern Ukraine.

Before the meeting started, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had said that achieving a ceasefire was significant. Thousands of people have been killed and indisposed in the fighting.

Russia has been accused of arming and reinforcing pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine, a claim That was denied.  The talks are set to focus on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone.

The Ukrainian and Russian presidents barely looked at each other when they were forced to shake hands. At a family photo of the leaders, not a single person was smiling. There was even an image of Vladimir Putin inside the negotiations snapping a pencil in two.

Heavy shelling was reported in the rebel-held city of Luhansk; by a freelance reporter, Pierre Sautreuil, (in French) that a rebel military base seemed to be the target of one bombardment in the south-east of the city.

Mr Poroshenko had earlier said that the situation threatened to spin “out of control” if the parties did not agree to ceasefire.

The Ukrainian warned that his government was prepared to impose martial law, adding that the Minsk summit was one of the final chances to bring about an unconditional ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons.

US President Barack Obama has refused to rule out supplying “lethal defensive weapons” to Kiev if diplomacy fails, but Russia says that would worsen the crisis.

Russia President, Putin Renounces Right To Send Troops To Ukraine

Russian President Putin attends a state awards ceremony in the KremlinRussia President, Vladimir Putin, have  asked the Upper House, on Tuesday, to revoke the right it had granted him to order a military intervention in Ukraine in defence of Russian-speakers there, the Kremlin said in a statement.

This step by Putin would certainly be welcomed by the West as a sign that Moscow was ready to help engineer a settlement in Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking east, where a pro-Russian uprising against Kiev began in April.

“The president has filed a proposal to the Federation Council on cancelling…the resolution on the use of Russia’s Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine,” the Kremlin said in a statement on its website.

Federation Council Speaker, Valentina Matviyenko, said that the chamber would discuss Putin’s request on Wednesday.

Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, said Russia now expected Kiev to respond with measures of its own, without specifying what these should be.

President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine described it as “first practical step” following Putin’s statement of support last weekend for Poroshenko’s peace plan for easternUkraine.

In the March 1 resolution, the Federation Council had granted Putin the right to “use the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine until the social and political situation in the country normalises”.

That resolution, with the eventual annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by Russia, helped push East-West relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War and led the United States and Europe to impose sanctions on Moscow.

European Union foreign ministers, on Monday, had held out the prospect of further sanctions if Russia did not do more to support a peace process in eastern Ukraine, and had also asked it to revoke the March 1 resolution.

Like many of eastern Ukraine’s Russian speakers, Moscow was infuriated by the toppling in January of President Viktor Yanukovich, after he pulled out of an association agreement with the EU in favour of closer ties with Moscow.

 

Ukraine Army Helicopter ‘Shot Down’ Near Sloviansk

Ukraine Army helicopterAs the crisis in Ukraine continues, pro-Russian rebels in the East have shot down a military helicopter near the flashpoint city of Sloviansk killing 14 people.

The aircraft was reportedly hit after offloading soldiers at a military base.

Sloviansk has seen fierce fighting between separatists and government forces in recent weeks.

President-elect, Petro Poroshenko has vowed to tackle the uprising in eastern Ukraine, saying he would deal firmly with “bandits” and “murderers”.

There has been an upsurge in the conflict since Mr Poroshenko’s election on Sunday. The rebels say they lost up to 100 fighters when they tried to seize Donetsk airport on Monday.

Since then further clashes have been reported in several areas – including Sloviansk – where pro-Russia militiamen are holding four international monitors.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that the missing OSCE members were alive and well and there was hope they would be released soon.

“We have not yet been able to re-establish contact with them; it has now been since Monday. Of course, as the days pass we get more concerned but we are using all of our contacts, all our government contacts, diplomatic contacts, non-state actors on the ground of which there are many, to re-establish contact with them.

“We believe they are fine, they are well but of course one thing we do want is to see them return to their base in Donetsk,” Bociurkiw said.

Earlier on Thursday, the leader of pro-Russian separatists in the area where the monitors were seized said they are likely to be released soon.

Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, whose separatist group controls the town of Slaviansk, said the OSCE had been warned not to travel in the area, but had sent a four-man team out all the same.

The team, which comprises a Dane, a Turk, an Estonian and a Swiss, are among a few hundred monitors sent to monitor compliance with an international accord for de-escalating the crisis in troubled eastern Ukraine, where separatists have seized control of strategic points in several towns.

Ukraine Crisis: Government Dismisses Self-Rule Referendums ‘A Farce’

Ukraine referendumPro-Russian rebels declared a landslide victory in Sunday’s referendum held in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions with Pro-Russian separatists in the region said to have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the “self-rule”.

The Ukrainian government, however, have dismissed the vote as a farce and the European Union has criticized the referendum.

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague said: “These votes, these attempts at referendums have zero credibility in the eyes of the world. They are illegal by anybody’s standards, they don’t meet any standard, not a single standard of objectivity, transparency, fairness or being properly conducted as a public referendum or election and indeed the people organizing them didn’t even pretend to meet any of those standards. The important thing is that the Ukrainian elections go ahead on the 25th of May.”

However, a Luhansk election commission official said residents overwhelmingly supported the referendum.

Like officials in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”, a spokesman for the Luhansk referendum said that more than 90 percent of residents voted in favour.

Russia said on Monday it respected the outcome of the referendum and that the results should be implemented peacefully.

The European Union meanwhile is set to step up pressure on Russia by taking a first cautious step towards extending sanctions to companies, as well as people, linked to Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.