World Bulletin/News Desk
Ukraine's military on Wednesday reported a significant reduction in shelling by separatists during a declared "Day of Silence" on Tuesday, but Kiev's peace envoy ruled out any new negotiations until the rebels ceased fire completely.
Leonid Kuchma, a former president, scotched notions of a fresh meeting this week of the so-called "contact group" comprising Russia, Ukraine and pro-Moscow separatist leaders, which in September agreed a ceasefire only for it to be immediately and then continually flouted.
"In these conditions when there is one side that is not observing a ceasefire regime, I do not consider a meeting viable," Kuchma was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.
Referring to the "Day of Silence", which the Kiev military said was punctured by some separatist shelling of government positions at the airport of Donetsk, Kuchma said: "Let them show they (the separatists) really want peace and not war, that they fully have control of their armed formations.
"The Ukrainian side will be ready for the next meeting (only) when there is a full ceasefire."
Separatist leaders had no immediate comment. They have previously levelled similar accusations of ceasefire violations against government forces.
A fully observed truce in Ukraine's industrial east where the separatists have declared "people's republics", could have helped pave the way to a new round of peace talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk this week.
At talks there last September under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) auspices, the sides forged a 12-point peace blueprint including an immediate truce. But the guns never fell silent and hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers, civilians and separatists have been killed since.
Kiev has accused Russia of breaching the Minsk pact by failing to pull fighters and military equipment out of the east. Russia denies having any forces in Ukraine.
Separatist leaders had planned to hold talks by video-link on Wednesday among the "contact group" members but subsequently cancelled their plans.
Earlier Kiev's military was strikingly positive in assessing the "Day of Silence", saying that for the first time none of its soldiers had been killed or wounded in the previous 24 hours.
"To the extent that we are seeing a lessening of shelling, we will continue supporting the silence regime and hope that shelling will reduce sharply and lead to zero," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a news briefing.
The conflict began after Ukraine's Russian-backed president was toppled by street protests in February, and has stoked the worst tension in Russian-Western relations since the Cold War.Last Mod: 10 Aralık 2014, 16:25