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Ukraine president gets parliament boost for peace plan

Ukraine's parliament on Thursday confirmed Kiev's negotiator with Moscow as foreign minister in a boost for the new president's plan to end the bloody pro-Russian insurgency gripping the separatist east.

KIEV: Ukraine's parliament on Thursday confirmed Kiev's negotiator with Moscow as foreign minister in a boost for the new president's plan to end the bloody pro-Russian insurgency gripping the separatist east.

The unanimous approval of Pavlo Klimkin came as President Petro Poroshenko prepared to host leaders from the restive rust belt as he continued to build his case for a ceasefire following 10 weeks of fighting.

Significantly, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Moscow's RIA Novosti state news agency that "we wish the new minister success and are ready for contact with him."

Poroshenko vowed to order the army to halt hostilities and give the rebels a chance to disarm after late-night talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin bolstered hope for a solution to Ukraine's worst crisis since independence in 1991.

But fighting that has now claimed around 360 lives continued unabated and one top militia leader dismissed Poroshenko's peace push as "meaningless".

A senior defence source told Kiev's respected Dzerkalo Tyzhnia news site that clashes on Wednesday near the Russian border killed 15 soldiers and left 13 others missing -- one of the deadliest days of the two-month campaign.

And no rebel representative will be present when Poroshenko meets business tycoons and politicians from the Russia-speaking east in his Kiev administration building.

"The proposed temporary ceasefire is, by itself, insufficient for a lasting de-escalation," Moscow's VTB Capital investment bank said in its daily assessment of turmoil that threatens to plunge the cash-strapped country into an even deeper recession.

"The cornerstone of any political settlement could only be inclusive and far-reaching constitutional reform, granting wider autonomy to the regions."

Poroshenko intends to keep Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk -- a reformist who was embraced by the West after months of pro-EU protests ousted the Russian-backed president in February -- and most of the members of his cabinet.

The ministers represent the European aspirations of the energetic crowds that engineered Ukraine's second pro-Western revolution in a decade and are still viewed by many as the true voice of the people.

But Poroshenko was forced to sacrifice acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya less than a month into his presidency after he was caught on camera calling President Vladimir Putin "a prick".

The appointment of Klimkin -- Kiev's current ambassador to Germany who played a central role in negotiating an historic EU trade and political association pact -- is also seen as a step toward better relations with Russia.

The 46-year-old foreign service veteran represents Poroshenko at delicate peace negotiations that an OSCE mediator helped launch in Kiev on June 8.

The talks have since produced a peace initiative that includes Poroshenko's ceasefire proposal and the introduction of a new constitution that gives broader rights to Ukraine's regions -- a key Moscow demand.

Lawmakers on Thursday also confirmed 49-year-old Valeria Gontareva as Ukraine's first female central bank chief.

Gontareva has worked in international financial institutions for nearly two decades and held top positions in the Kiev branches of the Amsterdam-based ING Bank and France's Societe Generale.

She will play a vital role in trying to turn around Ukraine's teetering economy by implementing painful economic reforms prescribed under the terms of a $17-billion (12.5-billion-euro) IMF rescue loan.

"She has a good understanding of financial culture," said Razumkov Economic and Political Studies Centre analyst Vasyl Yurchyshyn.

"We should expect more transparency, openness and clarity in the central bank's work."

Parliament began its hearing by approving Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema as prosecutor general.

The 50-year-old police department graduate was responsible for coordinating the work of Ukraine's defence forces and is viewed by analysts as one of the country's most respected security chiefs.

He has vowed to regain control of Crimea -- the strategic Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in March -- and introduce discipline in Ukraine's underfunded and poorly trained army.

But Yarema's main job will probably focus on scrubbing clean layers of state corruption that first turned the public against the old pro-Russian regime.

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