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Ukraine's Poroshenko Says Fighting in East Has Abated


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Friday that there had been a "gradual de-escalation" in the fighting with Russian-backed separatists in the east.

Poroshenko told Ukraine's 1+1 television, "The fact that we have not had military losses for several days ... this is a clear indication of a gradual de-escalation."

But he said if the fighting flared up again, Ukraine would "immediately receive lethal weapons" from European Union nations. He did not say who had promised the arms, nor did he specify the kinds kinds of weapons.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last month that Paris had no intention of providing lethal hardware to Kyiv "at this time." German Chancellor Angela Merkel also has said she opposes sending arms to Ukraine.

Pro-Russian separatists began an armed rebellion in eastern Ukraine in April last year. Since then, thousands of people have died in the violence.

Ukraine and the separatists signed a cease-fire last month in Minsk and promised to withdraw their heavy weapons. Despite frequent shelling, observers say the truce has generally been holding.

A spokesman in Kyiv for Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told a reporter for The Associated Press on Friday that Ukraine had formally asked the United Nations to deploy a peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said travel restrictions imposed by the Ukrainian government had contributed to serious delays in delivery of medical care in rebel-controlled areas of the east.

The group released a statement Friday saying it based its assertion on 10 days of phone and in-person interviews with medical personnel and patients in eastern Ukraine.

HRW said the travel restrictions had impeded access for Ukrainian citizens in eastern Ukraine who needed to travel to government-controlled areas to use state-funded medical services. The group said patients being treated for HIV, tuberculosis and drug addiction were particularly affected by the restrictions.

It said the restrictions had also created delays in delivering medications that resulted in shortages at medical facilities.