(Vatican Radio) Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have rejected a presidential offer to lay down their weapons for a week and free hostages as part of a peace plan.
Listen to Stefan Bos’ report:
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says the ceasefire will last till the morning of June 27, when he ironically signs the European Union association agreement.
Yet, Ukrainian soldiers will have the right to fire back when attacked by pro-Russian separatists.
Dressed in uniform, Poroshenko told his troops in eastern Ukraine that the coming seven days "will be a short opportunity for those who fight the legitimate Ukrainian authorities to give up their arms and leave occupied buildings.”
He also launched a 15-point peace plan to end the fighting which already killed hundreds of people in the Russian speaking east.
Clashes erupted in April after the ouster of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
Yet the ink on the peace plan document was barely dry when pro-Russian rebels already rejected it. Moscow is also reluctant to accept the proposal, explained Russia's United Nations ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
"He [Poroshenko] repeatedly said that the entire world has embraced this initiative [and that] also President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov have supported it. I double checked and I’m authorised to say that it is not true," Churkin told reporters.
"It’s premature to talk about our support for President Poroshenko's initiative, at least for the reason that we have not seen it yet, ” he added.
However for thousands of refugees a lasting ceasefire could not come soon enough. Among them are non-Orthodox Christians.
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches and priests as well as Protestant Christians have been targeted by pro-Russian rebels who view them as government supporters.
Mission group Russian Ministries told Vatican Radio that this week separatists, armed with machine guns, raided two churches, destroying offices and banning worship services in the town of Gorlovka. They already seized another Protestant church in the area in May.
Additionally, pro-Russian forces reportedly occupied a church-run rehabilitation center in the Donetsk region, where dozens of people underwent rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction.
Kyiv has accused Moscow of fuelling the unrest by supplying tanks or other equipment to rebels and sending thousands of troops to Ukraine's border, allegations Russia denies.
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