Ukraine PM tells army to be on full battle alert despite ceasefire

Ukraine PM tells army to be on full battle alert despite ceasefire
# 18 September 2014 01:57 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Ukraine's prime minister told government forces to remain on full battle alert on Wednesday as fighting in the rebel-held eastern city of Donetsk killed at least two civilians and further strained a ceasefire with Russian-backed separatists, APA reports quoting Reuters.

"Russia definitely will not give us either peace or stability. It is not their goal. So I am asking the defense minister for full battle readiness," Arseny Yatseniuk, who is emerging as a policy 'hawk' in President Petro Poroshenko's leadership, told a government meeting.

The pro-Western Poroshenko, who will be looking for U.S. support for his strategy in handling the separatist rebellions and Russia when he addresses the U.S. Congress on Thursday, called the ceasefire on Sept. 5 after heavy battlefield losses which Kiev ascribes to Russian military intervention on behalf of the rebels.

Moscow denies its armed forces are involved in the fighting despite what Kiev and Western governments say is undeniable proof. Russia's objection to Kiev's pro-Europe course since the ousting of the Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich by street protests in February lies at the core of the crisis over Ukraine which has become the worst Russia-West confrontation since the Cold War.

The shaky ceasefire is part of Poroshenko's wider plan to end a conflict which has killed more than 3,000 civilians and which Yatseniuk said on Wednesday was costing the country 80 million hryvnia ($6 million) a day.

Crucially, his plan includes a politically-risky offer of temporary and limited self-rule, within a united Ukraine, to separatist-held areas in the east, a move designed to blunt an independence drive threatening to break up the ex-Soviet country.

But Poroshenko, hoping to consolidate his rule with a parliamentary election on Oct. 26, could be vulnerable if he is seen by Ukrainians to be accepting peace on Moscow's terms.

Yatseniuk made a pitch on Wednesday for grassroots support for a coalition with Poroshenko in October when he announced a purge of civil service ranks to rid it of corruption and lingering loyalty to the old order, something supporters of the 'Euro-maidan' revolt against Yanukovich have been calling for.

He said one million civil servants, including government ministers, would be screened for loyalty under new legislation passed on Tuesday. The rebels have all but rejected the 'special status' plan, which would allow the self-proclaimed 'people's republics' to hold their own elections, set up their own policing and 'deepen' relations with Russia for a three-year period. They say they see no future as part of Ukraine.

It has also met with criticism from Poroshenko's erstwhile political allies in Kiev's pro-Western establishment, many of whom fear it will lock in place a breakaway region under Russian protection similar to those in the ex-Soviet states of Moldova and Georgia.