German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, in a telephone call lasting more than two hours, told Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine chief Petro Poroshenko to start peace talks and reminded them of a looming deadline for Kremlin action.
Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels of breaking a cease-fire that is due to end tomorrow, the same day Putin faces the threat of deeper European Union sanctions.
Merkel and Hollande in today’s call noted the importance of “the extension of the cease-fire and the implementation of the peace plan presented by the Ukraine authorities,” according a statement from the French president’s office.
The increased pressure came just two days after EU leaders threatened Putin with “further significant restrictive measures” if he fails to rein in separatist rebels. President Poroshenko’s office said in a statement the four leaders agreed to talk again tomorrow, while Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed they would discuss the tensions again, saying it could happen as early as tomorrow. The EU ultimatum issued to Putin takes effect tomorrow.
The steps urged by Merkel and Hollande today also included the verification of the cease-fire and the “effective control” of the border.
In Moscow, the Kremlin press service said Poroshenko “was called upon to extend the cease-fire for a longer period,” while Putin also stressed the need for immediate humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine.
Poroshenko, in his own statement issued in Kiev, said the cease-fire should be respected by all sides, claiming it is now maintained only by Ukraine troops. Poroshenko also called on Putin to step up border control “to stop the flow of insurgents and mercenaries to Ukraine and the supply of arms and armored vehicles for them.”
Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels of starting at least seven skirmishes yesterday in violation of the cease-fire.
Rebels killed five Ukrainian soldiers in violation of a truce extended by the country’s government after the EU ultimatum.
Thirteen soldiers also were wounded in the attacks by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern region while five suffered shell shock, Ukraine National Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters in Kiev today.
Leaders in eastern Ukraine, where the pro-Russian rebels are based, said it was the Ukrainian government that broke the cease-fire, according to Russian state TV Rossiya 24 and RIA Novosti news wire.