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Ukraine to suspend 'anti-terror' operation, create elite force

Posted on Jun 18 2014 | IANS

Kiev/Geneva, June 18 : Ukraine Wednesday announced a unilateral ceasefire in the country's eastern regions to allow armed activists to lay down their weapons or leave the country even as it said that it will create an elite special operations unit to counter threats to state security

"From our side, we will offer amnesty to those insurgents who will lay down their arms and those who have not committed serious crimes," President Petro Poroshenko told reporters in Kiev.

The ceasefire period would be "very short", Poroshenko said, without specifying an exact time frame, according to Xinhua.

Poroshenko stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of civilians in crisis-hit regions, urging the rebels to immediately release hostages, abandon seized buildings and carry out full disarmament.

To restore order in the battle-torn areas, Ukrainian authorities were ready to make further concessions to the insurgents, including comprehensive constitutional reform that would strengthen the regions' powers, Poroshenko said.

He also pledged to unveil his comprehensive 14-point peace plan to end the anti-government protests in Donetsk and Lugansk regions in days.

The government launched its military operation against insurgents in mid-April in an attempt to retake control of the cities and towns seized by armed activists, who declared independence.

The protest in the mostly Russian-speaking eastern part of Ukraine started shortly after the ouster of former president Viktor Yanukovych in February as a peaceful movement to demand more autonomy.

Later, the protest snowballed into violent unrest, with insurgents demanding their region split from Ukraine. So far, more than 260 people have died in clashes between government troops and rebels in the eastern part of the country.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's acting Defence Minister Mykhailo Koval said Wednesday that his country would establish an elite special operations unit in the near future to counter threats to state security.

"The president of Ukraine, who is supreme commander of the armed forces, and the National Defence and Security Council, have approved the creation of a new structure, which will participate in fighting and guard the security of our country," Koval told reporters during a media briefing.

The new force would be formed from troops involved in the government's military operation in the east and other combat-ready personnel, Xinhua cited Koval as saying, without specifying the size of the unit.

In another related development, President Poroshenko Wednesday proposed to parliament the dismissal of Ukraine's acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia following a diplomatic row with Russia.

Footage filmed by local media showed Deshchytsia making insulting remarks about Russian President Vladimir Putin when talking to protesters who attacked the Russian embassy in Kiev Saturday.

The Russian foreign ministry accused Deshchytsia of "going beyond the bounds of proprieties" and asked Kiev to dismiss him.

Poroshenko has appointed Pavlo Klimkin as the country's new top diplomat.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Wednesday issued a new report on Ukraine describing the breakdown of law and order in areas held by armed groups in the east of the country.

The 58-page report, covering the period from May 7 to June 7, is the third to be produced by the 34-strong UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, since it was deployed by High Commissioner Navi Pillay in March.

The report pointed out the human rights situation in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk had continued to deteriorate, noting the presence of armed people and weapons had increased in both regions.

"The escalation in criminal activity resulting in human rights abuses is no longer limited to targeting journalists, elected representatives, local politicians, civil servants and civil society activists," the report said.

The report stated that abductions, detentions, acts of ill-treatment and torture, and killings by armed groups were affecting the broader population of the two eastern regions, marked by an atmosphere of intimidation and consequent fear.

Pillay urged the armed groups operating in eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk to stop taking themselves, and the people living in their regions, down this dead end, which was "leading simply to misery, destruction, displacement and economic deprivation".

The report stated that the Ukraine government was continuing to implement the April 17 Geneva statement through a number of initiatives and legislative changes, as well as taking the first steps towards the adoption of a constitutional reform package, including the decentralisation of power and a special status for the Russian language.

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