Russia, Germany, Poland Meet After Progress in Kiev Peace Talks

Russia, Germany and Poland met today in St. Petersburg in a bid to push forward Ukraine peace talks after negotiations in Kiev made some initial progress.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his German and Polish counterparts, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Radoslaw Sikorski arrived at a hotel in Russia’s former imperial capital where they are scheduled to hold their talks, according to a Bloomberg News reporter who saw them enter the building.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that two days of negotiations ending yesterday between Russia and Ukraine and involving the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reached agreement on implementing parts of newly elected President Petro Poroshenko’s peace plan and on priorities for de-escalation in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ukraine’s army is fighting pro-Russian separatists in those areas, and the government in Kiev blames Russian President Vladimir Putin for stirring up the unrest after annexing Crimea in March. Ukraine’s U.S. and European allies have imposed sanctions on Russia and threatened to tighten them unless Putin acts to ease tensions. Russia says Ukraine must stop using armed force against its own citizens in the mostly Russian-speaking east.

Steinmeier said yesterday before heading to St. Petersburg that he saw some cautious grounds for optimism.

“In the Ukraine conflict, for the first time in months, a faint light is now visible at the end of the tunnel,” Steinmeier said in a statement posted on his ministry’s website. “We’re still not close enough to a solution.”

He said it was positive that the two sides were now talking directly

Lavrov said yesterday that he hoped that Poroshenko’s contacts with European and U.S. leaders will change the situation.

Russia hopes that the new Ukrainian president “will fulfill his obligations to stop violence and start dialog with all Ukrainian regions to find an agreement,” he told a news conference with Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja in Turku, southeast Finland.

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