Ukraine Rebel Leader: We Are Open to a Ceasefire

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 9 2014 3:08 PM

Ukraine Rebel Leader: We Are Open to a Ceasefire

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A serviceman sits on a tank gun barrel while a helicopter flies on the position of the Ukrainian troops in Donetsk region on Saturday

Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images

As the Ukrainian government troops surround the key rebel-held city of Donetsk, a top leader of the insurgents says the pro-Russian separatist fighters would be willing to accept a ceasefire in order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. "We are ready for a ceasefire to prevent the proliferation of a humanitarian disaster in Donbass," Alexander Zakharchenko, the so-called prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people's republic said in a statement, in reference to the area where fighting is taking place, reports Reuters. As Ukrainian troops closed in on the largest rebel-held city that has become almost a headquarters for the separatist movement, conditions “were clearly deteriorating,” reports the Associated Press. Zakharchenko warned the city faced food and water shortages. "In the event of a storm of the city the number of victims will increase by magnitude. We have no humanitarian corridors. There is no supply of medicines ... food supplies are nearing their end," he said.

Although the descriptions of the dire conditions in Donetsk could be the justifications to accept the ceasefire, it could also be a way to increase pressure on the international community to allow a Russian humanitarian mission in the region. Moscow has long been pushing to send a humanitarian mission to eastern Ukraine, but Kiev sees that as an excuse for Russia to get its troops inside Ukrainian soil. President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both agreed in a telephone conversation Saturday that any Russian intervention in Ukraine, even for humanitarian reasons, would violate international law. Any direct Russian intervention in Ukraine would “provoke additional consequences,” said the White House, according to the Associated Press.

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Despite NATO warnings over the past week that Russia has gathered enough troops at the border to invade, it seems Kiev is “calling Putin’s bluff,” as a former Ukrainian diplomat tells the New York Times

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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