Poroshenko declares week-long ceasefire

The Ukrainian president has ordered a seven-day ceasefire in the fight against pro-Russian separatists.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday ordered a seven-day ceasefire in the fight against pro-Russian separatists. Picture: AFP/SERGEI SUPINSKY

KIEV - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday ordered a seven-day ceasefire in the fight against pro-Russian separatists, but also warned them they could face death if they did not use the time to put down their guns.

In Moscow, the Kremlin, whose support Poroshenko needs for his plan to end the insurgency in the rebellious east, denounced the ceasefire as an ultimatum to separatists rather than a peace offering.

Poroshenko, installed only three weeks ago as president after seven months of turmoil in the ex-Soviet republic, ordered government forces to cease firing to allow his peace plan for the region to take root.

But after fierce fighting on Thursday about 100 km from the Russian border that apparently caused heavy losses for separatists and some deaths on the Ukrainian side, Poroshenko backed his declaration with a warning to the rebels.

Interfax news agency quoted him as telling military officers in the east that the temporary ceasefire would give the rebels just one week to lay down their arms, after which "they will have to be eliminated."

The ceasefire "does not mean that we will not fight back in the event of aggression towards our military. We will do everything we can to defend the territory of our state," his website quoted him separately as saying.

The ceasefire will run from 10 pm on Friday until 10 am on 27 June, it said.

After announcement of the ceasefire, Poroshenko launched a 15-point peace plan to end the insurgency in the Russian-speaking east which erupted in April after street protests in the capital Kiev toppled the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich.

Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. Kiev's new authorities quickly saw the hand of Moscow when separatist groups took control of strategic buildings and towns in the east, declaring "people's republics" and declaring they wanted to join Russia.