Ukraine president pushes for fast cease-fire, defensive arms
Ukraine's president pushed for both a quick cease-fire in his country's troubled east and defensive weapons from the West, as mediators have sought momentum for a deal to stem the fighting at Europe's edge.
Munich: Ukraine's president pushed for both a quick cease-fire in his country's troubled east and defensive weapons from the West, as mediators have sought momentum for a deal to stem the fighting at Europe's edge.
Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin are to confer with the leaders of Germany and France by phone today in an effort to overcome months of setbacks and suspicion and breathe new life into a much-violated September peace plan.
But even those who had scheduled the call were cautious about its prospects.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who along with French President Francois Hollande traveled to Kiev on Thursday and Moscow on Friday, acknowledged disillusionment over the failure of previous agreements to stick and said "there are no theoretical guarantees" that a new one would either.
Western anxiety over the conflict is growing and sanctions are taking a toll on Russia's economy. More than 5,300 people have been killed since fighting began in April, according to a UN tally, and the bloodshed has markedly increased over the past two weeks.
"I do not believe there will be a final solution on this situation. Putin is still not weak enough to accept that, and the West is not strong enough to insist on its terms," said Igor Sutyagin, an analyst with the Royal United Services Institute in Britain.
The resurgent fighting has prompted the US to consider giving lethal weapons to Ukraine, an option opposed by European nations which fear the move would merely exacerbate the situation.
"I cannot imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily," Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference. "I have to put it that bluntly."
US Vice President Joe Biden, who also attended the Munich conference, stopped short of explicitly addressing possible arms deliveries. "We will continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself," he said.
Russia's most immediate goal is likely the lifting of some of the Western sanctions which, in concert with plunging oil prices, have driven the Russian economy into a parlous state or at least to fend off the imposition of further sanctions.
In the longer game, Russia has pushed for so-called "federalisation" of Ukraine that would give broad powers to its provinces and allow them to deal directly with Moscow.
Russia also wants to keep Ukraine out of NATO. Although Ukraine dropped its nonalignment policy last year, the Western alliance would be unlikely to accept Ukraine anytime soon because of its unstable politics and endemic corruption.