Ukraine rejects talks with rebels until they disarm

July 8, 2014 2:35 pm
A demonstrator waves the flag of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk during a rally of pro-Russia supporters in Lenin Square in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, on July 6, 2014/AFP
A demonstrator waves the flag of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk during a rally of pro-Russia supporters in Lenin Square in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, on July 6, 2014/AFP

, DONETSK, July 8- Ukraine on Tuesday brushed off strong European pressure as it rejected talks with pro Russian rebels on a truce to halt a bloody insurgency convulsing the ex Soviet nation until they laid down their arms.

The unconditional stance reflected a new confidence in Kiev that it was on the verge of quashing a rebellion it views as Moscow’s retribution for the February ouster of a Kremlin backed leader and the decision to pursue a historic alliance with the West.

But it was also bound to both frustrate EU leaders pushing for a diplomatic solution to the continent’s worst crisis in decades, and Kremlin efforts to force Kiev to make compromises that would preserve the Russian speaking east’s ties to Moscow.

“Now, any negotiations are possible only after the rebels completely lay down their arms,” Defence Minister Valeriy Geletey said in a statement.

Ukrainian forces have scored a string of surprise military successes since the weekend that forced most of the militias to retreat to the sprawling eastern industrial hubs of Donetsk and Lugansk — both capitals of their own “People’s Republics”.

President Petro Poroshenko has ordered his troops to blockade the insurgents inside the cities and cut them off from any further arms supplies.

But it was not immediately clear how the new pro Western leader intended to force the militias to give up their three month campaign to join Russian rule.

Germany and France have been spearheading a European push to sit the two sides down for negotiations that could agree the terms of a new truce.

Poroshenko cancelled a 10-day ceasefire on July 1 because of uninterrupted rebel attacks that claimed the lives of more than 20 Ukrainian troops.

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier said on Monday that “even if the situation in eastern Ukraine has shifted in favour of the Ukrainian security forces, there will be no purely military resolution of the conflict”.

But a round of indirect talks about a ceasefire brokered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Kiev on Sunday produced no tangible result.

Presidents Francois Hollande and Barack Obama on Monday also noted in a statement released by Paris that “a durable solution to the crisis in Ukraine can only be a political one.”

– US defends eastern campaign –

But Washington has consistently backed the stepped up campaign being waged by Ukrainian troops and irregular forces since Poroshenko’s post May 25 election promise to quickly quash an uprising that has cost nearly 500 lives.

The United States views Ukraine’s territorial integrity as vital to European security and important to halting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s seeming ambition to resurrect a tsarist or post-Soviet empire.

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