Ukraine leader looks to summit with Germany, France, to curb Russian 'aggression'

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 20, 2015 10:52 AM

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday he wanted next week's summit talks with German and French leaders to curb Russian "aggression" and force Moscow to comply with a February peace plan for east Ukraine.

Poroshenko made his comments at an awards ceremony to intelligence officers, as Kiev's military announced four more Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 14 others wounded. The fighting threatens a six-month ceasefire between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

Poroshenko will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Berlin on Monday at Kiev's behest in response to an upsurge in fighting in east and south-east Ukraine which both sides blame on the other.

More than 6,500 people are estimated to have been killed in the conflict which erupted after Russian-backed separatists rebelled in the east following the ousting of a pro-Moscow president in Kiev which in turn led to Russia annexing Crimea.

Both sides have withdrawn large numbers of heavy weapons from the conflict zone in line with a ceasefire mapped out in Minsk, Belarus, last February but violations and sporadic clashes still take a steady toll of lives daily.

The Ukrainian leader reproached Russia for not forcing the rebels to withdraw all the weapons as agreed at Minsk and said international monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were being denied proper access to areas to fulfil their mission.

"We must coordinate action because the key task of the Ukrainian leadership is to form a powerful international community in a single coalition which can stop the aggressor," he said.

Moscow, for its part says Kiev has failed to deliver on multiple provisions of the Minsk peace plan and wants Kiev to hold direct talks with representatives of the self-proclaimed rebel "republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk, which it backs.

The Ukrainian authorities are unwilling to do this since it would imply recognition of their status.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday urged the German and French leaders to put pressure on Kiev to fulfil its obligations under the Minsk plan and "ensure it is carried out in full".

Poroshenko, in his comments to journalists on Thursday, criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for making "an illegal visit" to Crimea this week and called for coordinated steps to ensure that Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula in March 2014 is not recognised internationally.

In fresh military action overnight into Thursday, the Ukrainian military reported renewed rebel shelling of government positions near the separatist-held city of Donetsk and mortar fire in villages near the strategic Kiev-controlled port city of Mariupol.

(Reporting by Nalatia Zinets; Writing By Richard Balmforth)