Ukraine’s new president has ordered security officials to create a corridor for safe passage for civilians in rebel-held eastern regions, a day after he said “mutual understanding” was achieved with Russia.
Petro Poroshenko’s statement published online on Tuesday said security agencies would organise transport and relocation to help residents of the affected areas leave the scene of over two-months of pro-Russian uprising.
However, the statement gave no details on where the civilians could be relocated, or what accommodation was available.
Shortly after the announcement, Russia said it welcomed Ukraine’s decision to establish the corridors, but stressed that Moscow had yet to see an easing of the Ukraine’s military crackdown on the pro-Russian rebels.
“We’ve heard that President Poroshenko spoke in favour of the creation of corridors for refugees. We welcome this,” Lavrov said after talks with his German and Polish counterparts.
But he took issue with his German colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s statement about a reduction in fighting. “In some places we are witnessing an escalation of military operations.”
‘Gangsters and killers’
Poroshenko’s statement gave no indication that he was planning to wind down the government’s operation against the rebels, who have continued to seize administrative buildings, police stations, border posts and garrisons across the region.
At his inauguration on Saturday, Poroshenko said that he would grant amnesty to rebels who laid down their arms and had not been involved in bloodshed, and encouraged creation of a safe corridor for rebels to go to Russia. He ruled out negotiations with any “gangsters and killers” among them.
Radoslaw Sikorski, Polish foreign minister, said on Tuesday that Russia could help defuse the crisis in Ukraine by preventing rebels and weapons from crossing into eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are fighting government forces.
At a news conference with Sergey Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German counterpart, Sikorski said Vladimir Putin’s promise to respect the results of Ukraine’s presidential election was a step in the right direction and that Ukrainian membership in NATO – something that Russia opposes – was “not on the agenda”.