Ukraine faces risky year fighting to escape Russian orbit: Poroshenko

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2015 5:52 AM

KIEV(Reuters) - President Petro Poroshenko said on Monday Ukraine was facing a precarious year, warning that Russia had several strategies to undermine Kiev's attempts to move towards Europe.

He spoke at a ceremony in central Kiev to mark 24 years of Ukraine's independence from its former Soviet ruler, before traveling to Berlin for talks with the leaders of France and Germany on the implementation of a much-violated ceasefire deal with pro-Russian rebels in the east.

"We have to get through the (coming) 25th year of independence as if on brittle ice. We must understand that the smallest misstep could be fatal. The war for Ukrainian independence is continuing," he said, addressing a crowd of several thousand.

He said 50,000 Russian troops were massed along the Ukraine-Russia border and a further 9,000 were supporting pro-Russian rebels in separatist territories. New military convoys had been tracked crossing the border into Ukraine last week, he added.

While the threat of "full-scale military invasion" remains, Russia "also has an alternative strategy - to undermine the situation in the middle of our country and to put the country at loggerheads with key (foreign) partners, isolating it with the aggressor," he said.

Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimea territory last year, has dismissed accusations by NATO and other powers that it has sent arms and troops to back the separatist fighters in the east.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Andrew Heavens)