Thu, Nov 06, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Kiev deploys troops east to prevent rebel land seizures

AFP, KIEV

Militants of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk attend the inauguration of leader Alexander Zakharchenko in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

Ukraine is rearming and deploying newly formed units to protect cities in the east of the country from threatened attempts by pro-Russian rebels to seize more territory, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Tuesday.

At a meeting of security chiefs in Kiev, Poroshenko said he had not given up on a deal brokered in September to end the seven-month conflict, in which the UN says more than 4,000 people have died.

“Ukraine remains a firm supporter of the peace plan,” he said.

However, he said Ukraine’s military is ready to repel any separatist attempt to mount a new offensive, as they have repeatedly threatened to do, and that he had decided to ask parliament to “cancel” a law offering autonomy for the rebel regions at the heart of the peace plan.

Troops were in place to defend government-held cities from Mariupol on the Black Sea to Kharkiv in the northeast, near Russia, he said.

“We are obliged as the Ukrainian state not to allow the spread of this cancerous tumor, to ensure the blockade of this territory,” he told the Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

The country’s army has been badly mauled during the more than half a year of battles with rebels who the West says are supplied and supported by Russian troops.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday in Brussels that Moscow continues to arm, train and support the rebels, with special forces inside Ukraine and more troops detected moving troops along the border.

Poroshenko said that Kiev will be “prepared for decisive measures in the case of a negative scenario.”

The meeting with security chiefs in Kiev was called after separatists staged leadership elections that were endorsed by Russia, but condemned by Ukraine, the US, EU powers and the head of the UN.

In the two rebel enclaves in the east, centered on the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, the Kremlin-backed leaders added to the trappings of statehood with inauguration ceremonies on Tuesday.

The move to revoke the special status of the rebel-occupied regions that will cancel a two-month-old truce deal, the separatists said.

“The law on the special status and the law on amnesty agreed with the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic were an obligation for Kiev,” the separatist regions said in a joint statement on their Web sites yesterday.

Canceling the laws will “in fact cancel the Minsk Protocol,” they said of the September truce.

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