Ukrainian rebel leader announces cease-fire

DONETSK, Ukraine, Sept. 13 (UPI) — A Russian-backed separatist leader in eastern Ukraine announced a cease-fire starting at midnight Wednesday and urged the government to do the same.

Alexander Zakharchenko’s announcement was aired on Russian television Tuesday in a move to end the more than two-year-old conflict in which more than 9,500 people have died.

It’s the first time that the rebels, who are believed to be controlled by Moscow, proposed a unilateral cease-fire.

Last year, the Ukrainian government signed a peace accord with separatists in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, but it failed to take effect.

Also Tuesday, Russian forces broke a two-week-old cease-fire by attacking Stanytsia Luhanska, a key eastern border town, The Times of London reported. The attack killed at least three Ukrainian soldiers and wounded 15.

Zakharchenko, wearing a suit instead of his usual camouflage, blamed the Ukrainian government for “lack of willingness to solve the problem in a peaceful manner.”

The announcement came hours after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko revealed lawmakers will vote on constitutional amendments for autonomy for parts of eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko was scheduled to meet with the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Poland and Britain on Wednesday.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, now visiting Riga, Latvia, said a lasting truce is possible.

“After talks with [Ukraine’s Foreign Minister] Pavel Klimkin in Berlin several days ago and with [Russian Foreign Minister] Sergei Lavrov yesterday, I think it is possible to agree a lasting truce without preliminary conditions,” {link:Steinmeier said.
: “http://tass.com/world/899514″ target=”_blank”}
But he both sides must compromise.

Steinmeier plans to travel to Kiev on Wednesday, along with his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, to discuss the situation with the Ukrainian president, prime minister and representatives of political parties.

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