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Ukraine

Ceasefire on hold until rebels disarm, says Ukraine

Ukraine's defense ministry has said it will not negotiate a new ceasefire with pro-Russian separatists until the rebels have laid down their arms. The Ukrainian military has recently retaken key rebel strongholds.

Defense Minister Valery Heletey posted a message to the ministry's website on Tuesday saying Ukraine would not enter ceasefire talks with pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country until the rebels had laid down their arms.

As part of an effort to drive rebels out of their strongholds in cities in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military was successful in driving the rebels out of Slovyansk on Saturday. Saturday was also the deadline Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had set for another round of ceasefire negotiations.

However, the military success may have caused Kyiv to rethink its position on a ceasefire. A previous cessation of hostilities of 10 days did not yield much progress in the way of a long term end to the conflict and was interrupted several times by instances of violence.

The rebels are now regrouping in Donetsk and do not appear likely to accept the condition of disarming before returning to the negotiating table. Separatists in eastern Ukraine said Monday that attempts to blockade them in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk would destroy any hopes for a political solution.

West pushing for peace

While Ukraine's military may have the upper hand in the conflict for the moment, Western leaders are still pushing for a ceasefire to be implemented.

"A truce is an absolutely necessary step before even thinking of a political solution," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement on Monday.

A statement released by French President Francois Hollande's office on Monday said Hollande had spoken with his American counterpart, Barack Obama, and that the two agreed a meeting between the two sides in the Ukrainian conflict needed to take place as quickly as possible.

"A durable solution to the crisis in Ukraine can only be a political one," the statement read.

mz/rc (AFP, AP)

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