News / Europe

Ukraine President Ready for Talks if Pro-Russia Rebels Lay Down Arms

A pro-Russian fighter aims his sniper rifle in Slovyansk, Ukraine, June 11, 2014.
A pro-Russian fighter aims his sniper rifle in Slovyansk, Ukraine, June 11, 2014.
Reuters
Ukraine's new president signaled on Wednesday he would be ready to hold talks with opponents in eastern Ukraine if pro-Russian separatists waging an insurgency there agreed to lay down their weapons.
 
The rebels show no sign of giving up their arms, but opening talks would be a big step on the road to peace, building on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's meetings this week with Moscow's envoy and with Russian President Vladimir Putin in France last week.
 
Poroshenko, trying to act swiftly after being sworn in as president on Saturday, was quoted by his press office as telling the governor of the Donetsk region of east Ukraine that he would not rule out holding “roundtable” talks with “different parties”.
 
“We do not need negotiations for the sake of negotiations. Our peace plan must become the basis for further de-escalation of the conflict,” a statement on the president's website quoted Poroshenko as saying at a meeting with Governor Serhiy Taruta.
 
He added: “Terrorists must lay down their weapons.”
 
Donetsk is at the heart of the rebellion by separatists who oppose centralized rule from the national capital, Kyiv, and want Russia to annex parts of the mainly Russian-speaking east - as it did the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March.
 
Taruta, one of the country's richest men, was brought in by Kyiv to try to keep the eastern regions within Ukraine soon after Poroshenko's predecessor was ousted following months of protests and fled to Russia in February.
 
The meeting with Taruta was Poroshenko's latest attempt to win backing for peace proposals he announced upon taking office but without offering details.
 
He has also said that before making any foreign trips as president, he will visit the Donbass coal-mining area, where Donetsk is the main city. A political source in Kyiv confirmed plans were under way for a visit and it was likely to be to Donetsk.
 
Natural gas talks stall
 
Poroshenko's moves this week have given new momentum to peace efforts although talks on ending a dispute with Moscow over the price Kyiv pays for Russian natural gas, as well as billions of dollars in unpaid bills, stalled on Wednesday.
 
Moscow has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine if no deal is reached by Monday and this could disrupt deliveries to the European Union, which gets about a third of its gas imports from Russia, half of them via Ukraine.
 
Poroshenko's office says progress is being made at talks with Russia's ambassador to Kyiv, but the president's proposals have been unanswered by the rebels in east Ukraine, where scores of people have been killed in fighting since April.
 
The violence has continued, particularly around the rebel-held city of Slaviansk and nearby Semyonovka, although there were no reports of fierce clashes on Wednesday.
 
Ukraine's health minister said 210 people had been brought to morgues in the Donbass area since the clashes began, including 14 children, but did not say whether they were killed in the fighting.
 
Poroshenko, who met Putin for 15 minutes during World War II anniversary events in Normandy on the eve of his inauguration, wants corridors opened to let rebel fighters escape to Russia and to allow civilians to escape the fighting.
 
Russia denies any involvement in the uprising and says the onus for ending the violence must be on Kyiv, whose forces have launched a military operation to prise out the separatists.
 
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by telephone it was vital to hold direct talks between the Ukrainian government and the rebels.
 
Lavrov “underscored the need for the swiftest halt by Kyiv of its military operation agreement on terms of a ceasefire, a solution to acute humanitarian issues and real national dialog on Ukraine's future structure,” his ministry said.
 
Many civilians and rebels doubt Poroshenko can carry out his promises to secure peace, and some question his aims.
 
“The day Poroshenko proposed his humanitarian corridor, his troops were firing on Slaviansk and Semyonovka. How can we trust the word of someone like that?” said a rebel who gave his name only as Alexander as he ate a lunch of rice and chicken on the ground floor of the occupied administration building in Donetsk.
 
Alexei, 46, a coal miner, said he had no faith in Poroshenko's proposals.
 
“When he talks about an end to violence, he means cleaning us out of here at any cost,” he said, gray hair poking out from under a camouflage headband.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs