Ukraine to implement unilateral cease-fire

Story highlights

  • U.S. says Ukraine needs a partner for this proposal to be successful
  • President Petro Poroshenko says Ukrainian forces are putting down their arms
  • He wants separatists to lay down their arms, offers amnesty to some, escape corridor
  • Top Russian official says the proposal sounds a bit like "ethnic cleansing"

Ukraine's President on Wednesday announced that he will implement a unilateral cease-fire to ease the crisis in the restive eastern part of the country.

Ukrainian forces are putting their arms down only shortly, President Petro Poroshenko said, referring to a time in which he expects separatist groups to disarm.

The plan offers amnesty to those who didn't commit serious crimes, the President said. An escape corridor will be offered for those who disarm to leave Ukraine.

"We expect that hostages and seized premises will be liberated. We expect that a large number of civilians will use the security guarantees for the citizens of Donbas," Poroshenko said, referring to Ukraine's eastern region.

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The plan would also include the closure of the Ukraine-Russia border and changes to the constitution to decentralize power.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking at a news conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, said the plan sounded like "ethnic cleansing."

Lavrov said he heard that "this temporary cease-fire is needed to allow so-called separatists to leave Ukrainian territory. Well, this is probably close to ethnic cleansing -- if the Russian-speaking, ethnic Russian population is invited to leave the country because the authorities do not want to take note of their lawful demands."

The U.S. State Department welcomed Poroshenko's announcement.

"We certainly commend them for these good-faith efforts," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "But naturally, they need a partner (in Russia) in this effort."

Ukraine's government is carrying out what it calls an anti-terrorist operation, centered in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, to try to regain control from pro-Russian separatists.

Russia and Ukraine have been engaged in a tense standoff since March, when Russia annexed Crimea and massed troops along its border with Ukraine. Moscow has since begun to withdraw those forces.

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