Ukraine's president offers safe passage for people fleeing fighting

2014-06-12 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Ukraine's new president has ordered security officials to create a corridor for safe passage for thousands of civilians fleeing eastern regions that have been rocked by deadly clashes between government forces and pro-Russia separatists.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report: 

Petro Poroshenko made the announcement while forming his government team by tapping a media mogul as chief of staff. Poroshenko has pledged to end the conflict in which an estimated 200 people died, including 59 servicemen.

On Tuesday he ordered security agencies to organize transport and relocation to help civilians leave areas affected by fighting between rebels and Ukraine's military. 

His office gave no details however on where the civilians could be relocated, or what accommodation was available.

The announcement came after the United Nations' refugee agency said Ukraine's tensions resulted in about 10,000 displaced people, both from Russia's annexation of Crimea and from the violence in the east.

THOUSANDS FLEE

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday said some 30,000 Ukrainian refugees are now in Russia's Rostov region, which borders Ukraine.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told journalists in Kiev on Tuesday that she has praised Poroshenko's plan to resolve the conflict. Nuland promised that $48 million pledged by Vice President Joe Biden to Kiev on Sunday would be used “in eastern Ukraine in conjunction with the president's peace plan.”

President Poroshenko also called for a ceasefire by the end of the week, but that it late for residents in places such as Slovyansk. The strategic city has been at the center of heavy fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels.

"Yesterday, the centre of the city was hit the hardest. There were a lot of injured people, and a lot of buildings were hit that had not been hit before,” a man said.

EMPTY SPACE

A local woman is concerned about the future. “This will never end,” she said. “They will only stop shooting when they wipe us from the face of the earth, when nothing remains here but an empty space.”

Ongoing fighting overshadowed European Union-brokered talks Tuesday between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas deliveries.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of rising prices following the ouster of pro-Russian President Victor Yanukvich.

If no agreement is reached over a $5.2bn. debt, deliveries to Ukraine could potentially stop within hours.

Poroshenko hopes his administration will be able to deal with Russia. On Tuesday the chocolate tycoon-turned politician an executive and business ally Boris Lozhkin as chief of staff. Journalist Svyatoslav Tsegolka, of the television network owned by Poroshenko, was chosen as press secretary.

(From archive of Vatican Radio)