Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

Pro-Russian separatists attack Ukrainian posts, ignoring cease-fire

Separatists dismiss cease-fire called by Ukraine's president, but Russian president calls on both sides to halt fighting

Pro-Russian separatists overnight and into Saturday attacked Ukrainian posts and a military base near Donetsk on the border with Russia, Ukrainian government forces said, dismissing Kiev's unilateral cease-fire as fake. But not long after those actions Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement calling on "opposing sides to halt any military activities and sit down at the negotiating table."

The fresh fighting in Donetsk came just hours after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered his troops to lay down their weapons late Friday, as part of his plan to end the conflict in the east of the country that has left hundreds of people dead.

Separatist leaders have rejected the cease-fire and said they will not disarm. In Donetsk, a group of armed men gathered in the central square to take a military oath to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.

Pavel Gubarev, who describes himself as the governor of the Donetsk People's Republic, claimed there was no cease-fire near Slovyansk, scene of serious clashes over the past several months.

"There is no cease-fire over there," Gubarev said. "There is shooting all the time, and this cease-fire that Poroshenko is talking about is just fake. The Ukrainian forces are either not under his control, or he is just a liar."

In showing his support for Poroshenko's plan, Putin seemed to go against the pro-Russian separatists, but he stressed that without action directed at starting talks, the plan was "not viable and unrealistic."

Putin's overture also came after his own order on Saturday for military forces in central Russia to be on combat alert for one week in the Volga region and the Ural mountains, but not western Russia.

A spokesman for Ukraine's government forces said separatists used mortars and sniper fire to attack Ukrainian posts at Izvaryne and Uspenka on the border overnight, hours after the cease-fire was announced, wounding nine Ukrainian officers.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry also reported two attacks on the quarters of a missile unit in the village of Avdiyivka, near the main regional town of Donetsk. Kiev said men armed with automatic rifles and grenade launchers attacked the base at 11 p.m. — one hour after the cease-fire was announced — prompting the army to respond. The rebels left in the morning, the defense ministry said.

Cease-fire agreement

The cease-fire plan includes amnesty for fighters who lay down their arms and a chance for them to leave the country. That is to be followed by local and parliamentary elections and a jobs program. The Kremlin — which had consistently demanded that Kiev be the first to cease fire — dismissed the plan, saying it sounded like an ultimatum and lacked any firm offer to open talks with insurgents.

Speaking to Russian reporters in Saudi Arabia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lambasted Poroshenko's peace plan as "lacking the most important thing: an offer to start a dialogue."

But the statement from the Kremlin late Sunday from Putin extended support for Poroshenko's cease-fire agreement.

Poroshenko has always ruled out negotiations with those "who have blood on their hands."

Lavrov also said that Moscow is concerned about what it described as a "build-up of military activity" in Ukraine, RIA Novosti reported.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso lauded Poroshenko's peace plan and urged "all parties" to "actively promote its implementation."

The United Nations says 356 people have died in violence in Ukraine since May 7, and 34,000 have left their homes. The U.N. count did not include several recent clashes and fighting before May 7.

Wire services

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