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Poroshenko Orders Extra Troops To Southern, Eastern Ukraine

  • RFE/RL

Border controls on the administrative border with annexed Crimea on November 4.

Border controls on the administrative border with annexed Crimea on November 4.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has ordered reinforcements to protect southern and eastern areas of the country from possible attacks by Russian-backed separatists.

Speaking at a meeting of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council on November 4, Poroshenko said the units are to protect Mariupol, Berdyansk, Kharkiv, the north of Luhansk, and Dnipropetrovsk region.

Poroshenko called the meeting in Kyiv two days after the separatists staged polls dismissed by Ukraine and the West as illegal.

The elections were held against the background of a conflict that has killed more than 4,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April.

Poroshenko said Kyiv has been a “firm supporter” of a peace plan agreed on September 5 in Minsk but that other signatories were not meeting their obligations -- referring to the rebels and Russia.

Poroshenko said the November 2 elections held in rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions "torpedoed" a key provision of the peace deal.

The president said he wants parliament to repel a law that was passed in accordance with the peace plan.

The law grants limited autonomy to the two rebel-controlled areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Donetsk Leader Sworn In

But Poroshenko said Kyiv was “ready to ensure a special regime of a free economic zone” where businesses based in these areas would enjoy “special economic relations” with the European Union.

Earlier on November 4, separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko was sworn into office as the head of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic.

Lawmakers from Russia and Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region, whose independence is recognized only by Russia and three other countries, attended the event.

Another separatist leader, Igor Plotnitsky, was sworn in as the head of the so-called Luhansk People's Republic.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the separatist elections as "unfortunate and counterproductive," and called on all parties to recommit to full implementation of the Minsk agreement.

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the rebel elections threatened to close a “window of opportunity for internal dialogue and for dialogue with Russia" on implementing the peace plan.

Mogherini spoke at a press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said Russian troops were “moving closer” to the border with Ukraine.

Stoltenberg added that Russia continues to support the separatists “by training them, by providing equipment and supporting them also by having Russian special forces in eastern parts of Ukraine.”

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and Interfax