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Ukraine leader under pressure as rebels agree to talks

KIEV: Ukraine’s new Western-backed president faced pressure on Tuesday to negotiate with top rebel commanders after a surprise turnabout in which the insurgents agreed to a truce and talks on ending their pro-Russian uprising. The prominent head of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic on Monday unexpectedly reversed his firm rejection of President Petro Poroshenko’s peace overtures by agreeing to a ceasefire that would last until Friday morning. “We hope that during the period in which both sides halt fire, we will be able to agree and begin consultations about holding negotiations about a peaceful settlement to the conflict,” Oleksandr Borodai said after a meeting with Russia’s ambassador to Kiev and an OSCE envoy. The decision put the onus on Poroshenko to reconsider his refusal to talk directly to rebels implicated in nearly three months of violence that have killed almost 400 people in Ukraine’s Russified rustbelt. The Russian-border regions of Donetsk and Lugansk — home to seven million people as well as Ukraine’s crucial coal and metals industry — were overrun in early April by gunmen who proclaimed their independence from Kiev the following month. The rebel commanders in Lugansk have not yet publicly joined Borodai’s talks offer and the Ukrainian military reported more sporadic violence overnight. 

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