KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was abandoning a unilateral cease-fire in the conflict with pro-Russian separatists and sending military forces back on the offensive after talks with Russia and European leaders failed to start a broader peace process.
Poroshenko's decision, announced shortly after the much-violated 10-day cease-fire expired, raises the prospect of renewed escalation of a conflict that has killed more than 400 people.
A grave Poroshenko made a televised address early Tuesday vowing that "we will attack, and we will free our country." The cease-fire expired at 10 p.m. Monday.
There was no immediate sign of a response from Russia early Tuesday.
The idea behind the truce announced June 20 was to give pro-Russian rebels a chance to disarm and to start a broader peace process including an amnesty and new elections. Poroshenko, a wealthy candy magnate elected May 25, had already extended the cease-fire from seven days.
But rebels did not disarm, and the cease-fire was continually violated, with both sides blaming each other. Rebels called the cease-fire fake and did not yield to Poroshenko's latest push to get them to turn over key border crossings with Russia and permit international monitoring.
"The unique chance to put the peace plan into practice was not realized," Poroshenko said. "This happened because of the criminal actions of the fighters." He said the militants violated the truce "more than a hundred times."
Poroshenko said the government was ready to go back to the cease-fire "at any moment, when we see that all sides are keeping to the basic points of the peace plan."
Poroshenko said he made the decision after a meeting of the national security council. "After discussion of the situation, I, as commander in chief, took the decision not to continue the unilateral cease-fire."
"Ending the cease-fire, this is our answer to terrorists, armed insurgents and looters, to all who mock the peaceful population, who are paralyzing the economy of the region ... who are depriving people of a normal, peaceful life," Poroshenko said in his speech.
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