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Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels to seek peace plan, ceasefire on Friday

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Newport (Wales)/Mariupol (Ukraine) (4th Sept, 2014): Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the main pro-Russian rebel leader said they would both order ceasefires on Friday, provided that an agreement is signed on a new peace plan to end the five month war in Ukraine's east.

The first apparent breakthrough of its kind in the war comes after a week in which the pro-Moscow separatists scored major victories with what NATO says is the open support of thousands of Russian troops.

Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Wales, Poroshenko said the ceasefire would be conditional on a planned meeting going ahead in Minsk on Friday of envoys from Ukraine, Russia and Europe's OSCE security watchdog.

"At 1400 local time (1100 GMT on Friday), provided the (Minsk) meeting takes place, I will call on the General Staff to set up a bilateral ceasefire and we hope that the implementation of the peace plan will begin tomorrow," Poroshenko told reporters.

Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said in a statement that the separatists would also order a ceasefire, from one hour later, provided that Kiev's representatives signed up to a peace plan at the Minsk meeting.

The announcements come a day after Russia's President Vladimir Putin put forward a seven-point peace plan, which would end the fighting in Ukraine's east while leaving rebels in control of territory.

So far there has been no sign of a halt in fighting in the east, where rebels have rapidly advanced in the past week, backed by what Kiev and NATO say is the support of thousands of Russian troops with artillery and tanks.

Moscow denies its troops are there, in the face of what the West says is overwhelming evidence.

Poroshenko won support from Western leaders at the NATO summit. The West has backed Kiev by imposing economic sanctions on Moscow, but has also made clear it will not fight to protect the country, where pro-Russian rebels rose up in two provinces after Moscow annexed the Crimea peninsula in March.

The Ukrainian president was invited to meet U.S. President Barack Obama, Germany's Angela Merkel, France's Francois Hollande and other Western leaders at a summit of NATO in Wales hosted by Britain's David Cameron.

"To the east, Russia has ripped up the rule book with its illegal, self-declared annexation of Crimea and its troops on Ukrainian soil threatening and undermining a sovereign nation state," Obama and Cameron wrote in a joint newspaper editorial.

Hollande brought the biggest surprise on the eve of the summit: postponing the delivery of a helicopter carrier warship to Russia, a measure he had long resisted. Moscow accused him of caving in to U.S. political pressure.

"France's reputation as a reliable partner that carries out its contractual obligations has been thrown into the furnace of American political ambitions," Russian Foreign Ministry deputy spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook.

 



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