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Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko, holds a mace, the Ukrainian symbol of power, during his inauguration ceremony in Kiev on June 7. / Anastasia Sirotkina, Parliamentary Press Service

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko proposed Wednesday a unilateral cease-fire by his nation's troops to allow pro-Russian separatists in the east part of the country a chance to lay down weapons or leave the country, according to Russian and Ukrainian news agencies.

The official website of the Ukrainian president carried a short statement saying the "cease-fire will be proposed as the beginning of the implementation of the peace plan" of the president.

The president said that "shortly afterward the plan will receive support from the other participants," according to Interfax.

However, it was not immediately clear to what extent separatists operating in Ukraine's eastern regions will abide by the call to lay down their weapons.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was open to negotiations but questioned whether Poroshenko's plan to have the fighters leave eastern Ukraine amounts to ethnic cleansing.

Lavrov said any cease-fire should be "comprehensive," not temporary. And if that was followed by negotiations "then it could be the step President Poroshenko has promised and which in general we were all waiting for."

According to state-owned Voice of Russia, Lavrov said, "I have also heard that the temporary cease-fire was necessary so that the so-called separatists leave Ukrainian territory - that is close to ethnic cleansing."

A leader of the pro-Russian militants dismissed the possible cease-fire as "absurd" and demanded that the Ukrainian military instead withdraw from the eastern region.

"Unlike Poroshenko who proposes an unconditional surrender, the Donetsk People's Republic has one condition, namely, an immediate pullout of Ukraine's occupation army from the territory of our republic," Alexander Borodai, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, told Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency.

Borodai, previously a Moscow political consultant, met Tuesday with members of the Russian parliament's upper house, and thanked them for "a steady flow of volunteers coming from Russia who fight for the interests of people of Donbass." He also acknowledged that "part of the Russian establishment does not want Donbass and other regions of Ukraine to join Russia."

Poroshenko made his announcement a day after discussing a possible cease-fire in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Poroshenko also discussed his peace plan with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, their offices said.

French President Francois Hollande and Merkel on Saturday talked with Putin to express their "grave concern" about the fighting in Ukraine after a Ukrainian military transport plane was shot down, killing 49 Ukrainian military personnel in the eastern city of Luhansk.

Hollande and Merkel urged Putin to support a cease-fire, according to a joint French and German statement.

Tensions on the ground should be ramped down by preventing fighters and weapons from crossing the Russian border and calling on the separatists to stop fighting, the statement said.

Western nations have accused Russia of supplying weapons and personnel to insurgents in eastern Ukraine, which Russia denies. NATO forces have increased air patrols in neighboring countries. On Wednesday morning, the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force based in Lithuania intercepted four groups of Russian aircraft on a training exercise near the Baltic nation, according to the London Evening Standard.

Poroshenko who was elected May 25, previously pledged to restore peace but Wednesday was the first time he said government forces would take the lead to stop hostilities. That has been Russia's main demand. He also fired his foreign minister, Andriy Deshchytsia, who had outraged Russians by using an obscenity to describe Putin.

Ukraine's Defense Minister Mykhailo Koval said the cease-fire could begin "within days."

In a speech Wednesday to graduates of Ukraine's National University of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Poroshenko said "Ukraine is in a state of war," according to the Kyiv Post.

He accused Russia of waging "a new type of warfare - with the use of professional subversive groups, mercenaries, volunteers and the local population. And these volunteers and the local population have 'washed' brains in a huge part due to the information war," the newspaper reported.

He pledged that Ukraine's military will stop its operations in eastern Ukraine to give insurgents the opportunity to stop fighting.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Correction: Earlier versions had the incorrect date for when the cease-fire was proposed.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Ukraine president proposes unilateral cease-fire

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