Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday announced a week-long ceasefire in the fight against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, his website said.
But he said government forces should defend themselves if, during that time, they came under attack from the rebels.
“Ukrainian army, cease fire!” it quoted him as telling military officers during a visit to the centre of the “anti-terrorist operation” in the east. “But this does not mean that we will not fight back in the event of aggression towards our military. We will do everything to defend the territory of our state,” the website quoted him as adding.
Poroshenko, who has said the declaration of a ceasefire will allow him formally to launch a peace plan for the region, spoke after receiving a report from an army commander that the border with Russia was defended.
Ukraine has said that the separatist unrest has been fomented by Moscow and that separatist rebels have been supported and armed by volunteer fighters from Russia, though this is denied by the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, the US issued new sanctions against seven Ukraine separatists accused of stoking violence against their capital in Kiev. Friday’s action comes as US officials point to new evidence that Russia is amassing new weapons and munitions closer to its border with Ukraine.
Russia had pulled back its troops from the border in recent weeks as negotiators from Moscow and Kiev began sketching out a peace plan.