Europe

Worst part of Ukraine's crisis over - President Poroshenko

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Photo: 25 September 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption President Poroshenko said he wanted Ukraine to apply for EU membership in 2020

The "most dangerous" part of Ukraine's conflict in the east is over, President Petro Poroshenko has said.

He said he had "no doubt that my peace plan will work", referring to deals with pro-Russian rebels this month.

He also unveiled a wide-ranging reform plan to get Ukraine ready to apply for EU membership in 2020.

Russia denies arming the rebels and sending troops into the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. About 3,200 people have died in fighting since April.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea southern peninsula in March - a move condemned by Ukraine and the West.

The European Union and the United States later imposed sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict.

'Strategy 2020'

"I have no doubt that the biggest, most dangerous part of the war is already behind us, thanks to the heroism of Ukrainian soldiers," Mr Poroshenko told reporters at a news conference in Kiev.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Ukrainian troops have been battling separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk since April
Image copyright AP
Image caption Separatists have been pushing for independence from Ukraine

He also said that Wednesday had been the first day for many months when no one had died in the conflict. He described it as the first real day of a ceasefire.

However, Mr Poroshenko said that not all of the conditions of the 5 September ceasefire and last weekend's memorandum were being fulfilled.

He stressed that more than 700 Ukrainian prisoners were still being held by the separatists, despite the agreed "all-for-all" prisoner exchange.

A shaky truce has largely held, but both the Ukrainian government and the rebels have accused each other of shelling.

On Wednesday, Nato said it observed a "significant" withdrawal of Russian troops from eastern Ukraine, but added that some forces still remained there.

In Kiev, Mr Poroshenko also announced his reform programme - entitled Strategy 2020.

He said his priorities would be to tackle corruption and reform the tax, economic and justice systems.


Minsk memorandum on ceasefire: Key points

  • To pull heavy weaponry 15km by each side from the line of contact, creating a 30km security zone
  • To ban offensive operations
  • To ban flights by combat aircraft over the security zone
  • To set up an OSCE monitoring mission
  • To withdraw all foreign mercenaries from the conflict zone