AP Interview: Ukrainian president pins hopes on UN talks

AP News
Posted: Sep 28, 2015 12:18 AM
AP Interview: Ukrainian president pins hopes on UN talks

NEW YORK (AP) — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he wants Monday's planned meeting between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin to lead to better implementation of an accord aimed at halting war in eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko, in New York to attend the annual U.N. General Assembly, told The Associated Press after a dinner reception on Sunday night that talks between the U.S. and Russian president might produce "a firmer incentive" for Moscow to comply with international agreements agreed earlier this year and last year in Minsk, Belarus, calling for a cease-fire and weapon pullbacks by all sides.

Putin and Obama are to meet on the margins of the United Nations gathering Monday. It will be their first face-to-face encounter in nearly a year amid deteriorating relations between Russia and the U.S.

Poroshenko stressed that Ukraine and its U.S. and European allies need to be steadfast with Russia to make sure it lives up to the terms of the agreement to resolve the differences in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists with support from Moscow have seized territory in the Donbass region and battled government forces. Russia earlier seized Ukraine's Crimea region and declared it part of Russia.

The Ukrainian leader said he expects Ukraine, the United States and the European Union to coordinate "a firm incentive for Putin to comply with the Minsk agreements."

"This applies to the impossibility of holding sham elections in the occupied territory, thorough implementation of all terms of the deal, access for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to all control checkpoints, withdrawal of all Russian soldiers from the occupied territories and closing the border," he said.

"I believe that effective coordination of our actions will bring results," Poroshenko added.

Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine are organizing local elections in defiance of the Ukrainian government, announcing a vote in October and November. The Ukrainian government dismisses the planned elections and says voting can only be held in accordance with Ukrainian law.

In remarks earlier at the dinner, organized and hosted by the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, Poroshenko called for more trans-Atlantic unity, solidarity and effective cooperation on strategic communication to help Ukraine settle the conflict in its east. "This is not a question of Ukraine's survival; this is a question of global survival," he said.

U.S.-Russian relations deteriorated after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014. The U.S. and other Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia over the annexation and over claims that Moscow is supporting an insurgency in eastern Ukraine with troops and arms.

Russia, which faces strong U.S. and European sanctions for its activities in Ukraine, denies it is militarily involved in eastern Ukraine and portrays the sanctions and strong criticism from Washington as attempts to undermine Russia and force Putin from power.

Besides Ukraine, the subject of Syria is sure to come up in the Putin-Obama meeting. U.S. officials have expressed concern about Russia's military buildup in Syria, which Russia says is intended to fight Islamic State terrorists but the U.S. sees as a move to bolster embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad's rule.