Ukraine Threatens To Scrap Ceasefire; Rebel Leader Sworn In

KIEV, Ukraine (dpa/MCT) -
Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko arrives for the inauguration ceremony in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. The pro-Russian separatist leader was sworn in on Tuesday as the head of a self-proclaimed “People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine in a ceremony that worsened a standoff with Russia.  (REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev)
Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko arrives for the inauguration ceremony in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. The pro-Russian separatist leader was sworn in on Tuesday as the head of a self-proclaimed “People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine in a ceremony that worsened a standoff with Russia. (REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev)

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko warned Tuesday that he would consider scrapping the conditions of a September truce with pro-Russian separatists in the wake of what he referred to as “illegal” elections in the country’s east.

The disputed vote was held on Sunday in the Donbass region that includes Donetsk and Luhansk. For months the area has been beset by violent conflict between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

Russia backed the outcome of the vote, which overwhelmingly supported the separatists, while the United States, the European Union and Ukraine rejected it.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out on any moves to end international sanctions against Russia amid the continuing tensions.

“There is currently no reason to repeal them,” Merkel told a meeting of the Federation of German Employers (BDA) in Berlin, and called on Moscow to use its influence over the separatists to implement the ceasefire agreement reached in Minsk in September.

After being ratified by Ukraine’s Parliament in late September, the ceasefire law grants partial autonomy and amnesty for the region for three years. It also grants the right to maintain armed units to those districts held by separatists.

Separatist leader Denis Pushilin dismissed Poroshenko’s threats, warning the government in Kiev against jeopardizing the peace process.

The separatists declared their independence from Ukraine in the spring, with their leaders saying they were in favor of joining Russia at a later stage.

Since then, more than 3,600 people have been killed in the conflict, which emerged following the removal of Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in a popular uprising in February.

Meanwhile, a rebel commander stated that pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine were in possession of anti-aircraft missiles as a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet was shot down in July.

However, he denied that rebels fired at the jet MH17, which had 298 people on board. The cause of MH17’s July 17 demise has still not been clarified.