SLAVYANSK: Ukraine on Tuesday brushed off strong European pressure and rejected talks with pro-Russian rebels on a truce to halt a bloody insurgency convulsing the ex-Soviet nation until they lay down their arms.
The unconditional stance reflected a new confidence in Kiev that it was on the verge of quashing an uprising it views as Moscow’s retribution for the February ouster of a Kremlin-backed leader and the decision to pursue a historic alliance with the West.
But it was also bound to frustrate EU leaders’ push for a diplomatic solution as well as the Kremlin’s own efforts to force Kiev to make compromises that would preserve the Russian-speaking east’s links to Moscow.
“Now, any negotiations are possible only after the rebels completely lay down their arms,” Defence Minister Valeriy Geletey said in a statement.
Ukrainian forces have scored a string of surprise military successes since the weekend that forced most of the militias to retreat to the sprawling eastern industrial hubs of Donetsk and Lugansk — both capitals of their own “People’s Republics”.
President Petro Poroshenko has ordered his troops to blockade the insurgents inside the cities and cut them off from any further arms supplies.
The new Western-backed leader said during an unannounced visit to Slavyansk — a former rebel bastion reclaimed by Kiev on Saturday — that talks with the uprising’s commanders were impossible because most were now hiding in Moscow.
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