Monday

18th Feb 2019

EU warns Russia as Ukraine ceasefire breaks down

  • The EU foreign service earlier this week acknowledged that Russian armed forces are fighting in Ukraine (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

The EU foreign service said on Wednesday (18 February) it is “ready to take appropriate action” if Russia continues to violate the latest Minsk ceasefire.

Its statement noted: “The actions by the Russia-backed separatists in Debaltseve are a clear violation of the ceasefire. The separatists must stop all military activities. Russia and the separatists have to immediately and fully implement the commitments agreed to in Minsk”.

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  • Poroshenko: 'We urge the world to respond hard' (Photo: president.gov.ua)

“The EU stands ready to take appropriate action in case the fighting and other negative developments in violation of the Minsk agreements continue”.

France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia last week in Minsk agreed ceasefire terms which included a cessation of hostilities at midnight on Saturday and a withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact from Monday onward.

The fighting mostly stopped in Donetsk, Lugansk, and Mariupol. But Russia-controlled irregulars and Russian forces continued to fire on Ukrainian soldiers in Debaltseve, a railway hub.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday said he ordered the retreat of his forces from the flashpoint town.

“We can say that 80 percent of troops have been already withdrawn. We are waiting for two more columns … We managed to show to the whole world the true face of [the] bandits-separatists backed by Russia, which acted as guarantor and direct participant of the Minsk negotiations”, he said in a statement.

“We urge the world to respond hard to Russia's brutal violation of [the] Minsk accords”, he tweeted later in the day.

The US and France, in a debate at the UN Security Council on Tuesday, also warned more sanctions will follow if Russia doesn’t comply with the Minsk deal.

“We’ve gotten used to living in an upside-down world with respect to Ukraine. Russia speaks of peace, and then fuels conflict. Russia signs agreements, and then does everything within its power to undermine them,” the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said.

“It is up to the parties, to the signatories of these agreements, including Russia, to actualize the commitments they have taken. I repeat, on behalf of France, only actions will count”, the French envoy, Francois Delattre, noted.

British leader David Cameron on Wednesday added: “Those Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine are using Russian rocket launchers, Russian tanks and Russian artillery. You cannot buy this equipment on eBay. It comes from Russia.”

“We have to be very firm it will have economic and financial consequences for many years to come if you do not desist”.

For its part, Russia continues to deny that it is a party to the conflict.

But the EU foreign service, in a change of policy earlier this week, officially acknowledged that Russian forces are fighting inside Ukrainian territory as well as feeding heavy weapons to paramilitaries.

It said, while blacklisting three Russian defence ministry officials on Monday, that they are responsible for “supporting the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine” and “involved in shaping and implementing the military campaign of the Russian forces in Ukraine”.

The EU diplomatic corps and the European Commission are currently preparing a potential new round of economic sanctions on Russia.

EU leaders are set to discuss the measures at a summit in Brussels in mid-March.

But they have warned that they could hold an extraordinary meeting at any point if the situation gets worse.

Ukraine calls for international peacekeepers

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has called for international peacekeepers to be deployed in the east of Ukraine amid a crumbling ceasefire. An EU police mission is the best format, he said.

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