Ukraine's president seeks new crisis talks at weekend, fighting rages

KIEV Fri Jul 4, 2014 7:30pm EDT

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko attends a news conference at the EU Council in Brussels June 27, 2014. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer  (

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko attends a news conference at the EU Council in Brussels June 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer (

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KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine has proposed a time and a place for talks on Saturday on reaching a durable ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels and is awaiting a reply, the president's website said, as fighting in the east killed 13 servicemen.

The website did not name the venue but a Western diplomat expected the talks to be held again in eastern Ukraine's major industrial hub of Donetsk, where the rebels control key points.

In some of the worst violence since President Petro Poroshenko called off a 10-day unilateral ceasefire on June 30, Ukraine's "anti-terrorist operation" (ATO) headquarters said at least 13 Ukrainian military personnel had been killed on Friday.

More than 200 people on the government side have been killed, as well as hundreds of civilians and rebels, in more than two months of fighting in Russian-speaking eastern regions that want to quit Ukraine and join Russia.

Kiev said Ukrainian military personnel had sustained losses from sniper fire on its position near the rebel stronghold and flashpoint city of Slaviansk, where shelling has left roads pockmarked and buildings damaged and burnt out.

ATO headquarters said on Friday it had regained control of the nearby village of Mykolayivka after heavy fighting.

"In the course of the operation, a large number of terrorists were taken prisoner and a significant arsenal of various weapons were taken," a statement on Facebook said.

Slaviansk, a city of 130,000, and surrounding villages have been the main focus of Ukraine's military drive to force out fighters loyal to rebel commander Igor Strelkov, a Muscovite.

Strelkov made an impassioned appeal to Russia on Friday, warning on a rebel website that without Moscow's help the entire region the rebels lay claim to, known as Novorossiya (New Russia), would fall to Kiev's forces.

"Slaviansk will fall earlier than the rest," he wrote.

Russia's foreign ministry accused Ukraine of endangering innocent civilians in the region. "We call on the Ukrainian authorities to cease firing on civilian targets and residential areas," it said.

SANCTION THREATS

The statement on Poroshenko's website said he had informed European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that Kiev had proposed a time and a place for Saturday's talks.

Separatist officials have suggested the venue could be a problem since rebel leaders could be subject to arrest by Ukrainian authorities if they move out of their strongholds.

"(The talks) cannot be held outside Ukraine because it is felt this would inflate the status of the rebels," the Western diplomatic source said.

Russia's economy may face more sanctions from the United States and the EU if the separatists fail to de-escalate the crisis, an issue that U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed again on Friday.

"The President and the Chancellor agreed that the United States and Europe should take further coordinated measures to impose costs on Russia if it does not take steps toward de-escalation in short order," the White House said in a statement.

Ukraine's foreign minister and those of Germany, France and Russia agreed in Berlin on Wednesday that another meeting of the so-called "contact group" should be set up by this weekend with rebel leaders to agree on a more effective ceasefire.

The group includes a former Ukrainian president, Moscow's ambassador to Kiev and a high-ranking official from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Earlier on Friday, Poroshenko, Merkel and French President Francois Hollande spoke by telephone in what appeared to be a fresh effort to get the meeting organised.

They agreed "that a mutual ceasefire and cooperation between Ukraine and Russia on securing the border are necessary steps to stabilise the situation. Russia ... is urged to use its influence over the separatists," Merkel's office said.

Ukraine is demanding that Russia prevent arms and volunteer fighters from crossing their long shared border. It also wants the release of all hostages. Russia denies orchestrating the conflict or sending in fighters and weapons.

Armed separatists captured key buildings in eastern Ukrainian cities in April, soon after Russia annexed Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, and have declared "people's republics" in a bid to follow its example and join Russia.

(Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova in Donetsk, and Natalia Zinets and Thomas Grove in Kiev; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Comments (23)
WyattKO wrote:
I believe that their might be an element of brilliance behind what the Ukrainian president is doing. The answer may very well be that Russia simply does not want Eastern Ukraine. There are a lot of headaches that Russia would get if it invaded Eastern Ukraine. First, the West would be forced to act decisively and enact sector wide sanctions on an already anemic Russian economy. Second, Russia already has to pour money into Crimea and it is not going to want to pour money into Eastern Ukraine. In Crimea, Russia has already raised pensions, but prices are skyrocketing and tourism has floundered. However, Crimea has great strategic value so it was worth the risk for Russia. I think there are no similar benefits that outweigh the risks in Eastern Ukraine. Russia’s goal appears very simple. They want a population in the East that is part of Ukraine because that is how they retain long-term levers or long-term pressure on Kiev. If the people in the East eventually vote in another corrupt Moscow backed thug into power in Kiev, then Russia can simply regain control for nothing and the West by then would have undertaken a lot of costs. So, Russia gets what it wants in that scenario for almost nothing. The best strategy seems to me to draw Russian in from the shadows. If Russia intervenes directly, it incurs major costs and loses Kiev without question forever with no levers of influence or control at all. And, it gets the ire of the world and creates more isolation for Russia. It also ends up with a very hostile nation on its border. Even if Ukraine lost the East, Russia would pay a steep price for it. And, in a sense, there are no gains Russia would reap from it. I believe NATO membership for the remainder of Ukraine might be more realistic if Russia took the East. So, why not try and put Russia into a situation where they have to either come out of the shadows or abandon their efforts in the East entirely? I think that is the winning strategy. Ukraine cannot let Russia come in as peacekeepers so they can solidify their support in the East where they would be regarded as the heroes coming in to solve the problems they created themselves. To do this would be to help aid Russia’s strategy of using the East to have long term influence in Kiev. I would argue that Ukraine should keep the pressure up in the East and try and surround the Russian backed insurgents in to corridor between the two major rivers in the East. I would also allow as many Russian sympathizers in the East to go to Russia. I would do this because if there were refugees, Russia would be obligated to care for them and expend resources on them. Also, there would be less people sympathetic to Russia in the East to assert political influence on Kiev in the future. I believe the insurgents are in a nice box and they are trapped there. Russia is trying to get them breathing room to ideally supply them and to buy time to test the West to see what might happen if Russia comes out of the shadows. I think Ukraine can do to the insurgents what the Russian’s did to the Germans in Stalingrad because they are trapped in a corridor between two rivers. If Ukraine can stop the flow of weapons and men across the border it has a nice situation in the East. I would force Russia to either get drawn in, which then forces the West to act, and also forces Russia to either go in or abandon their efforts. At the same time, I would want to peal off as many Russian sympathizers from the East and allow them to immigrate to Russia. RUSSIA DOES NOT WANT THE EAST. IT IS MORE TROUBLE FOR THEM THAN THE EAST IS WORTH. THEY SIMPLY WANT TO BALKANIZE THE EAST. I would argue that another strategy if Euromaiden still exists would be to task Euromaiden with running the non-linear war against Russia which it would be well-positioned to do. This means getting information out to counter Russian propaganda. This also means organizing support for things such as boycotts of the 2018 World Cup in Russia or organizing support against France selling Russia ships. If Euromaiden can also put pressure on the EU to deal with money laundering this would also have a major long term impact on Russia. Also, it could try and help an effort to win support for Finland and Sweden to join NATO. It could also try and send information to places like Belarus who might be emboldened to re-evaluate their relationship with Russia if it comes out of the shadows and takes its mask off fully in East Ukraine. Euromaiden would do very well if it understood the concept of nonlinear warfare because it could be a major player in conducting it if it is still a viable group. Despite all the propaganda coming from Russia labeling those in power in Kiev as vermin and fascists, no one is touting that Poland has had its best economic expansion in the last 25 years. This is the future that awaits Ukraine I hope and pray. The people of Ukraine deserve prosperity. It is my hope that these intelligent people will at least consider the above as they proceed. What has the West off balance is that it hoped Russian aggression would be checked by integrating it into the economies of the world. Putin realized that the flip side to this is they would also be reliant on Russia and he sees that as making the West indecisive. I believe drawing Russia out of the shadows will make the West more decisive. I also believe that the insurgents are demoralized and that is why Russia is trying to buy a ceasefire in the hopes of giving them breathing room and maybe supplies. I also believe Russia has not acted already because it simply does not want the headaches in the East that will come if it comes out of the shadows and intervenes overtly.

Jul 04, 2014 2:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
boreal wrote:
This is a good one! The US engineered Ukrainian puppets in Kiev urged on with generous western democratic egging demand Russia be their vassal border guard on the Ukraine Russian border.

Jul 04, 2014 2:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
columbare1 wrote:
This separatist movement, is similar to the American Civil War, and like that war, there is going to be no negotiations that will lead to the breaking up of the Ukraine, So the military of the Ukraine, can and must, destroy all who would !

Jul 04, 2014 2:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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