Ukraine Truce Not Enough for President to Start Political Change

  • Poroshenko demands Russia withdraw troops, halt arms supply
  • Diplomacy increasing to kickstart stalled 2015 peace accord

The latest cease-fire in eastern Ukraine isn’t enough for the former Soviet republic to proceed with political overhauls contained in a stalled 2015 peace accord, President Petro Poroshenko said.

While the army says the day-old truce is largely holding after previous attempts fell apart, Poroshenko demanded more if his nation is to begin the process of handing more autonomy to the Russian-backed insurgents it’s been battling for more than two years.

Russia must “pull out occupation troops, pull out weapons, and we’ll agree and settle everything,” he told the Yalta European Strategy conference Friday in Kiev, the capital. “If we close the border, there’ll be no conflict in Ukraine any more.”

The Ukrainian leader’s comments come amid a new diplomatic push to inject urgency into faltering conflict-resolution efforts. The German, French and British foreign ministers met Poroshenko this week in Kiev, reiterating support for the peace agreement signed more than 1 1/2 years ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Much of that pact remains unfulfilled, partly because of disagreements over the order in which its terms must be met.

Security Demand

Poroshenko said Thursday that Ukraine “won’t take a single step” until Russia complies with its obligations to ensure security in the conflict zone. From Ukraine’s side, the Minsk deal requires it to grant rebel-held lands special status and more political clout. Local elections are another sticking point.

More than 9,600 people have been killed since 2014, the United Nations estimates, with the fighting prompting a raft of U.S. and European Union sanctions against Russia. Those penalties must remain in place, according to U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who said Wednesday that his country’s decision to leave the EU wouldn’t affect its stance on Ukraine. While denying accusations he’s fueling its neighbor’s conflict, President Vladimir Putin has said some Russian troops are present.

This week’s cease-fire follows the collapse of the previous Sept. 1 truce. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Wednesday that he wants additional security measures agreed on at a regular round of Minsk talks next week. He said the security and political parts of the Minsk pact should be implemented in parallel.

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