KIEV, Ukraine — The leader of one of the main Russia-backed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine has proposed to "end the war once and for all" by challenging the country's president, Petro Poroshenko, to a duel.
Igor Plotnitsky, who won heavily stage-managed elections to become the leader of the Luhansk People's Republic earlier this month, told Poroshenko that a fight to the death was the best way to resolve the six-month conflict, which has killed over 4,000 and displaced a further million.
"Let's (on the example of ancient Slavic chieftans and glorious Cossack atamans) meet in single combat," Plotnitsky wrote in an open letter on the republic's website. "The winner may dictate his conditions to the opponent." Poroshenko, as the offended party, would have the right to choose the venue and weapons, he added.
"This offer of mine is not impulsive, but the result of lengthy consideration," Plotnitsky continued. If you still want to spill the blood of your and our soldiers, their wives, mothers, old people, and children, then prove that you are prepared to spill your blood too — and take my challenge."
A resumption of hostilities in the east has looked increasingly likely in recent weeks. Both sides say that a shaky ceasefire deal, which never prevented daily artillery exchanges across the region, is essentially dead. Recent sightings of unmarked armored military columns in rebel-held areas, which Ukraine and NATO say came from Russia, prompted Poroshenko to declare this week that Kiev was "ready for total war."
Poroshenko looks unlikely to take up Plotnitsky — who has surrendered effective control of much of the Luhansk People's Republic to local warlords — on his offer. Yevhen Perebynis, spokesperson for Ukraine's foreign ministry, tweeted that Plotnitsky was "only worthy of a duel in a Ukrainian court."
Max Seddon is a correspondent for BuzzFeed World based in Berlin. He has reported from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and across the ex-Soviet Union and Europe. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71
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