Leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France have vowed to push ahead with a peace plan to end the deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has been the scene of fighting between Kiev’s troops and pro-Russia forces over the past three years.
On Monday, presidents of Russia, France and Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron and Petro Poroshenko, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a four-way conversation on the latest developments in Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking regions, particularly Donbass.
The two-hour phone talks came amid escalating tensions in Donbass. Last week, pro-Russia forces announced their decision to build a new state named Malorossiya (Little Russia) in the east.
In the conversation, the leaders stressed the importance of “a complete ceasefire” in Donbass, Poroshenko’s press service stated after the telephone conference.
It said the four also called for “heavy weapons withdrawal and disengagement of forces with a 24-hour monitoring of the situation by the OSCE SMM,” using an acronym for the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The leaders also agreed “to coordinate final steps on safety and continue working on the road map to implement the Minsk accords,” the press service added.
, Berlin and Paris mediated two peace agreements between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russians in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, in 2014 and 2015.
The deals, known as Minsk I and Minsk II, have failed to contain the violence, which has killed over 10,000 people, with the two warring sides trading accusations of breaching the accords.
OSCE monitors watch a pro-Russia fighter of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic walk past near the village of Pryshyb, near Lugansk, on April 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Kiev and its allies claim Moscow is helping the pro-Russia forces by sending them weapons. Moscow, however, rejects the allegation.
The Ukrainian president further reiterated “the importance of introduction of a UN peace mission in Donbass,” according to the press service.
It was also noted that Macron and Merkel had pointed to the “inadmissibility of any statements that undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity, in particular regarding the establishment of the so-called Malorossiya.”
“Presidential foreign advisers of the four countries are due to meet in the second half of August to review new peace efforts,” it added.
US weighs sending arms to Kiev
Amid diplomatic efforts to ease the tensions, the new US special representative for Ukraine says Washington is pondering whether to send weapons to boost Kiev’s hand in the fight against pro-Moscow forces.
Kurt Volker told the BBC, “Defensive weapons, ones that would allow Ukraine to defend itself, and to take out tanks for example” would help to stop what he described as Russian threats.
He said in order to establish peace in eastern Ukraine a new strategy against Russia was needed.
The West has been exerting pressure on Moscow since pro-Russians in Ukraine started their protest against Kiev’s anti-Moscow stance in 2014.
Crimea separated itself from Ukraine following a popular referendum later that year and rejoined Russia in a referendum. Kiev and its Western allies, however, see the move as Russia’s annexation of the territory.