Ukraine pressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western allies on Monday to help settle a pro-Russian uprising that has raged on in the industrial east despite Kiev’s unilateral ceasefire.
President Petro Poroshenko conducted another furious round of telephone diplomacy as his foreign minister prepared to outline the details of Kiev’s new peace plan to EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
Poroshenko was due to sign an historic EU trade agreement in Brussels on Friday, crowning his May 25 election promise to make the decisive move closer to Europe that the regime toppled by protests in February resisted.
The new president’s high-stakes peace push envisions talks with eastern representatives but not rebel leaders — a condition that Russian President Vladimir Putin says will not help end the 11-week revolt.
Putin threw his weight behind Poroshenko’s plan over the weekend under the condition that it also leads to constitutional changes that grant broader rights to ethnic Russians who view the more nationalist leaders now in power in Kiev with mistrust.
Russia on Monday also insisted that the week-long unilateral ceasefire that Poroshenko ordered on Friday evening be extended over the long term.
“At the moment, a durable ceasefire is needed as an irreversible condition for starting practical steps towards a binding dialogue,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s office said after his talks with German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Insurgency commanders have rejected Poroshenko’s overtures and continued attacking government forces in their campaign to gain independence and eventually join Russia — a drive thus fur resisted by the Kremlin.
Poroshenko’s office said he told Merkel by telephone that the rebels had attacked government positions “more than 20 times” over the weekend in apparent rejection of Putin’s own call on Saturday for both sides to halt fire.
A Ukrainian military spokesman said on Monday that six Ukrainian soldiers were wounded overnight.
The 48-year-old chocolate baron stressed that the direct involvement of world leaders such as Merkel was instrumental in resolving a crisis that has both threatened his country’s survival and plunged East-West relations to a post-Cold War low.