Poroshenko
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks during a National Security and Defense Council sitting in Kiev on June 16, 2014. Photo by AFP
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Russian news agencies say Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proposed a unilateral cease-fire by his troops to allow pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country a chance to lay down weapons or leave the country.

The agencies quoted Poroshenko as saying Wednesday that this would be the first step in the peace plan he has proposed to de-escalate the conflict. He was quoted as saying: "The plan will begin with my order for a unilateral cease-fire." He added that "shortly afterward the plan will receive support from the other participants."

The proposal, reportedly disclosed during a visit to an army academy in Kiev, comes after a telephone call between Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin in which a cease-fire was discussed. Poroshenko's spokesman was not immediately available to confirm the offer.

Separatists have seized government buildings, held disputed referendums and declared independence in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions along Ukraine's eastern border with Russia. Ukrainian troops have struggled to suppress the insurgents, who on Saturday shot down a military transport plane, killing all 49 on board. Authorities say more than 300 people have died in fighting.

Poroshenko was elected after a protest movement drove his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, from office in February. In his inaugural address June 7, Poroshenko said he was willing to negotiate with people in the region, but not with "terrorists" with "blood on their hands." He proposed an amnesty for separatists, early regional elections and new efforts to create jobs in the area.