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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosnNewsLife
KIEV, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)– A ceasefire called by President Petro Poroshenko has begun in eastern Ukraine as part of efforts to revive a much-violated truce with pro-Russian separatists, but it remained unclear whether a peace meeting would go ahead as planned on Tuesday.
Poroshenko called Tuesday’s ceasefire the “Day of Silence”. It’s meant to interrupt daily fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels that claimed more lives over the weekend, ahead of peace talks in Minsk, the Belarusian capital.
Halting a conflict that has killed more than 4,300 people is easier said than done.
The talks between Ukrainian, Russian and officials of Europe’s security organization OSCE were to start Tuesday in Minsk, three months after an original deal was agreed in the Belarusian capital in September.
However the rebels want it scheduled for Friday to see Ukraine’s true intentions.
PERMANENT CEASEFIRE AGREED
Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko believes much is linked to the attitude of pro-Russian separatists. “We expect that the first and most important point of agreement is a permanent ceasefire. It’s only after Tuesday’s truce that it will be possible to withdraw heavy weaponry to 15 km from the front line,” he said.
Yuriy Lutsenko, spokesperson for the President’s “Petro Poroshenko Bloc” agrees. “I believe we have to stick to our strategy on renewing control over the occupied third of eastern Ukraine through diplomatic and economic pressure on Russia. This is why meeting in Minsk is one of the steps in this direction,” he added.
A permanent peace would be welcomed by survivors, including relatives of those who died when a Malaysian airlines passenger plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
A convoy carrying the first pieces of wreckage of flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands early Tuesday after a long journey through Ukraine, Poland and Germany.
The Netherlands is leading the investigation as most victims, some 196 people, were Dutch nationals.
RUSSIA, REBELS BLAMED
Kiev and several Western officials claim Russia-backed separatists shot down the plane on July 17, but Moscow and rebels have later denied these charges.
Even if a new ceasefire is agreed, Ukrainian security forces will remain on high alert with Canada pledging to train military police. Canada says the training is part of an agreement Canadian Defense Minister Rob Nicholson signed Monday in Kiev.
The country has already donated helmets, tents and sleeping bags as well as tactical communication systems and night vision goggles.
Russian President Vladimir Putin received a less-than-warm welcome from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month. When the Russian leader approached Harper for a handshake at the G-20 summit in Australia Harper told Putin: “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine.”
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).
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