Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko officially unveiled on June 20 his 15-point peace plan for de-escalation of the conflict in the country’s east, amid intensified clashes between pro-Russian rebels and government forces. It comes during an unpublicized visit by the president to the Donetsk region where he announced a cease-fire beginning June 20 and lasting until June 27 to give insurgents time to disarm.
Meanwhile, NATO reported a renewed buildup of Russian military forces on its border with Ukraine.
The plan calls for the release of all illegally held government buildings in Donetsk and Lugansk regions and pledges the restoration of buildings damaged during the course of the conflict. It also promises to exonerate all rebels who lay down their arms and are not guilty of serious crimes.
On the political front, the peace proposal calls for decentralization of power, granting regional authorities more autonomy, as well as the protection of the Russian language and early local and parliamentary elections.
Point four of the proposal is the creation of a 10km buffer zone on the Russian-Ukrainian border to prevent the influx of Russian arms and fighters, an element that deputy head of the presidential administration Valeriy Chaly said was crucial for the plan to succeed.
“It is impossible to implement a cease fire without having control of the dangerous sections of the border. There is no alternative,” he said, speaking at a press conference earlier in the day.
The day of the announcement was punctuated by mounting evidence of arms and military vehicles crossing into Ukraine from Russia, including a post on Facebook by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov alleging concrete proof of Kremlin involvement.
A claim by parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov that government forces had successfully sealed the border with Russia was subsequently denied by National Security and Defense Council spokesman Volodymyr Chepovy.
‘The border is not completely controlled by our law enforcers,” Chepovy told Interfax.
Turchynov’s claim also elicited a strong response from representatives of separatist forces.
“It can, of course, be said that there is a garden blooming on the moon, but we all understand that it’s not so… There is a war going on here and they have not taken anything under their control here, nor have they erected any walls or barbed wire,” said Andriy Purhin, first deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, according to Interfax.
The announcement of the peace plan follows a period of active diplomacy by Poroshenko, which culminated in a telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin on June 19, during which the two leaders discussed the plan’s key points. Putin once again insisted on an immediate end to Kyiv’s military operation in the east, according to the Kremlin’s press service.
“The President of Russia expressed hope that in implementing this plan, priority attention will be given to resolving key problems that have caused strong protests by the people living in these regions,” reads the statement on the Kremlin’s website.
It is unclear whether the peace plan will bear fruit. Most notably it includes no offer of negotiation with those who have seized power in Donetsk and Lugansk.
“There can be no talks with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Negotiations are possible only with those who share the peaceful plan of the president,” Iryna Gerashchenko, the president’s envoy for peace in Donetsk and Lugansk, said on Thursday.
A ceasefire was also flatly rejected by representatives of separatist forces when the president’s plans for a ceasefire first surfaced on June 18.
“This proposal by Poroshenko to lay down our arms is simply a tactical ploy. If people fall for it, there will be a new mopping-up operation. We will not put our weapons away,” said a spokesman for self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Myroslav Rudenko, in comments carried by Interfax.
Editors Note: “Putin once again insisted on an immediate end to Kyiv’s military operation in the east” Putin is only pushing this because he does not want any conflict when his troops, who are again massing close to the border, advance into eastern Ukraine in another attempt of annexation.