France and Germany raised pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to push pro-Russian separatists to reach an agreement with Ukraine, as they stepped up diplomacy aimed at reinstating a cease-fire.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the Russian leader yesterday and “stressed the importance” of seeking a truce and defining its conditions, Hollande’s office said in a statement. Following the cancellation of a cease-fire that was continually broken last week, they asked Putin to nudge the insurgents to engage in talks and find an agreement with Ukraine’s authorities, it said.
“Above all, Russia must play its part and exercise its influence over the separatists in the east of Ukraine so that these groups also observe a cease-fire,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in an e-mailed statement after Merkel spoke by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama.
The call by Merkel and Hollande, who have become Putin’s main negotiating counterparts during the conflict for Europe and the U.S., came as Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said its forces killed about 150 rebels in the country’s east. With the violence unabated, the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia agreed at a meeting in Berlin two days ago to work for a comprehensive cease-fire in another round of talks by tomorrow.
Obama and Merkel agreed the U.S. and Europe should take additional measures to “impose costs” on Russia if it doesn’t take steps to ease the crisis “in short order,” the White House said in a statement.
Ukraine’s hryvnia rose 0.3 percent against the dollar at 11:56 a.m. in Kiev. It’s lost 30.8 percent this year, the worst performance of more than 170 currencies tracked by by Bloomberg show. The ruble fell 0.1 percent against its euro/dollar basket.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking to reporters in Moscow yesterday, said that “our Western colleagues” must adopt “the key role” in persuading the Kiev authorities to heed the appeal for a truce.
Putin sent a a telegram to President Barack Obama marking U.S. Independence Day, saying he hoped ties between Russia and the U.S. “will successfully develop on a pragmatic and equal basis, despite difficulties and disputes,” the Kremlin said today in website statement.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ended a unilateral cease-fire by government forces this week, blaming the insurgents for breaking the truce more than 100 times, while killing 27 soldiers and wounding 69. He discussed the situation with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden yesterday, Poroshenko’s office said in a statement.
While the Ukrainian leader said he’s ready to resume peace talks without any additional conditions, he stressed that a truce could only come about after he gets confirmation it will be observed by separatists, and once all hostages are released and observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are monitoring the border with Russia.
With the EU and the U.S. considering expanding sanctions against Russia, the expiration of the cease-fire renewed a conflict that’s claimed hundreds of lives. Ukraine and its U.S. and European allies say the separatists in the mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are backed by Putin’s government, which Russia denies.
Ukrainian forces killed about 150 rebels near the village of Nikolaevka, Interfax news service reported today, citing Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkovsky. On the Ukrainian side, two soldiers were killed yesterday, he said. It was impossible to confirm the numbers, and the separatists don’t regularly comment on their casualties.
Several shells from the Ukrainian side also targeted the Russian border checkpoint Novashakhtinsk, Interfax reported, citing Vasiliy Malayev, a spokesman for the regional branch of Russia’s Border Service. There were no casualties, with only some infrastructure damage reported, Interfax said.
There were civilian casualties as a result of firefights in the town of Kramatorsk, the Donetsk regional administration said on its website, without providing details. Rebels also attacked a National Guard checkpoint in the Starobeshevsky district, it said.