Petro Poroshenko also said a new wave of European Union sanctions
against Russia underlined Western solidarity with Kiev, and that the
Ukrainian and EU parliaments could both ratify a deal on closer
economic and political ties on Sept. 16.
Ukrainian forces have been battling pro-Russian separatists in
eastern Ukraine for five months in a conflict in which more than
3,000 people have been killed. The two sides have been broadly
observing a ceasefire since last Friday, despite sporadic
"There is no military solution for this crisis," Poroshenko told EU
and Ukrainian lawmakers and businessmen at the annual Yalta European
Strategy conference - held in Kiev, not Yalta, due to Moscow's
annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March.
"I hope the very fragile but efficient peace process which started
exactly one week ago will have a continuation, for the (sake of)
stable peace and security on the continent," he said, speaking in
Poroshenko said Ukraine's 'association agreement' on closer EU ties,
due to be ratified next week, provided a road map for the reforms
that he said would be his top priority after parliamentary elections
on Oct. 26, provided that peace holds in the east.
He said he had assembled a team of experts to help fight pervasive
corruption, which he likened to "a cancer" eating away at the
foundations of the Ukrainian state, but that improving the security
situation remained the paramount concern.
"Investors will come when they feel safe in this country. That is
why we are reforming the very ineffective security system and army,
our court system ... If we do not reform these things, even after
the war, investors won't come," he said.
"I know personally how harmful the state can be for the investment
climate," added Poroshenko, a billionaire former businessman once
nicknamed the "Chocolate King" for who making his fortune in
EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS
Eastern Ukraine has been largely quiet in recent days, and the
tension following the ceasefire has gradually eased.
Overnight into Friday, Ukrainian forces and the separatists each
handed over 37 prisoners-of-war at a site north of the rebel-held
city of Donetsk. The exchange of all captives is one of the key
elements of the ceasefire.
Interfax news agency quoted Andrei Purgin, "deputy prime minister"
of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic', as saying the
next exchange would take place on Sunday.
[to top of second column]
The rebels have said the ceasefire does not mean they have abandoned
their demands for independence from Kiev, something Poroshenko again
made clear on Friday was not on offer.
"To keep the country united, we need some decentralisation of
power," Poroshenko told the conference in Kiev. But he added: "The
key issues of security, foreign policy, strategic points of
development must be in the hands of the central power."
The crisis in Ukraine erupted late last year when Poroshenko's
Moscow-backed predecessor, Viktor Yanukovich, rejected the
association agreement with the EU and sought closer economic ties
with Ukraine's communist-era overlord, Russia.
His decision triggered mass anti-government protests in Kiev that
culminated in Yanukovich's flight to Russia. Moscow then seized
Crimea and the separatist revolt in mainly Russian-speaking, heavily
industrialised east Ukraine erupted in April.
Kiev and its Western backers accuse Russia of arming the rebels and
sending forces into Ukraine and say this is proved by evidence they
have provided, but Russia denies the accusation.
On Friday, another wave of EU sanctions against Russia came into
force. They ban financing for some Russian state-owned companies and
impose asset freezes against more Russian politicians. Moscow has
vowed more retaliatory measures after already banning most Western
Welcoming the new sanctions as well as the pledges of support he
received at a NATO summit in Wales last week, Poroshenko said: "I
never felt before this level of solidarity ... I feel myself a full
member of the European family."
(Additional reporting by Anton Zverev in Yasinovataya; Writing by
Gareth Jones; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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