The Financial Times reports Poroshenko opens talks with Russia.
Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s new president, has opened talks with Russia on restoring peace in two breakaway eastern provinces a day after taking office, vowing to negotiate an end to the three-month-old pro-Russian insurgency.
Mr Poroshenko took part on Sunday in a three-member “working group discussion” on a proposed peace plan with Mikhail Zurabov, Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine, and a representative of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Iryna Friz, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian president said.
The opening of dialogue came a day after the billionaire oligarch took office with a promise to “ensure lasting peace” in the country’s breakaway eastern Donetsk and Lugansk provinces, and on the same day that Ukraine’s military pummeled rebel positions in a heavy assault on the separatist-controlled city of Slavyansk.
Pro-Russian rebels, who fired back with machine guns and heavy artillery, said that an unspecified number of civilians in the city were injured or killed. Explosions were heard, some buildings caught fire, and columns of thick black smoke rose over the town on Sunday afternoon.
In his first speech as president on Saturday, the billionaire oligarch sounded a more emollient tone on making peace with the rebels than the uncompromising line favoured by his caretaker predecessors, who took power after February’s pro-Europe Maidan revolt.
Mr Poroshenko promised to allow easterners free use of the Russian language and move forward with a plan to decentralise government – core separatist demands – and the holding of new local elections in the east.