Ukraine crisis: Rebel leader open to a ceasefire as forces advance
Ukraine’s rebels are surrounded and ready to agree to a ceasefire to prevent a ‘humanitarian catastrophe,’ the insurgents’ new leader said Saturday as conditions deteriorated in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, artillery thundering through deserted streets.
There was no immediate government response to the ceasefire statement. The government has made steady advances against the rebels in recent weeks.
‘We are prepared to stop firing to bar the spread of the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe in Donbass [Eastern Ukraine],’ Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the so-called prime minister of the Donetsk separatists, said in a statement on a rebel website.
The rebel leader’s motive for offering a ceasefire was not clear but his comments could be aimed at increasing the pressure on Ukraine to allow in a Russian aid mission.
Russia, which the Ukrainian government in Kyiv and Western countries allege is supporting the rebels, has called repeatedly for a humanitarian mission into Eastern Ukraine. But Kyiv and the West suggest that could be just a pretext to send Russian forces into the region, and say about 20,000 of them have gathered just across the border.
Poroshenko said he and German Chancellor Merkel discussed German participation in such a mission. Ukrainian Prez Petro Poroshenko issued a statement late Saturday saying that Ukraine is prepared to accept humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine. But he said the aid must come in without military accompaniment.