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Merkel talks to Poroshenko

August 16, 2014

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukraine’s president have discussed deliveries of weapons to separatists, allegedly from Moscow. The top diplomats from Russia and Ukraine will meet in Berlin on Sunday.

Convoy from Russia
Image: Reuters

On Saturday, Merkel discussed Ukraine's standoff with President Petro Poroshenko. Skirmishes between separatist rebels and Ukrainian government forces continue along the border with Russia.

"The subject of the discussion was, above all, the reports confirmed by the separatists about the delivery of tanks from Russia and the reinforcement by fighters trained on Russian soil," Steffen Seibert, Merkel's spokesman, said on Saturday. "They agreed that these deliveries of weapons must finally stop and that a ceasefire must be agreed," he added.

In a video posted on the Internet, and quoted by the news agency AFP, the separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said the new troops had had "four months of training on Russian territory," and had "been brought in at the most crucial moment." Ukraine's government forces have made significant gains in recent months, and are close to encircling the largest rebel-held city of Donetsk, while Luhansk is reportedly suffering severe shortages of food and medical supplies. Meanwhile, a rebel leader in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Friday said 150 armored vehicles and 1,200 fighters had been sent from Russia as reinforcements.

The United Nations has estimated that more than 2,000 people have died in the conflict so far, with nearly 5,000 wounded. More than 285,000 people have fled their homes in the east.

'Urgently needed aid'

In an apparent escalation of the conflict, Ukraine announced that it had destroyed part of an armored column that crossed into its territory from Russia Friday night. However, Defense Ministry officials in Moscow called the accusation a "fantasy."

Russia has sent an aid convoy of more than 200 trucks with the stated purpose of easing the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, but the cargo has been held up at the border since Thursday, awaiting approval from customs agents. Kyiv has given approval for the Russian aid convoy to cross the border only after it has been inspected, and it has raised concerns that the trucks could be a "Trojan horse" of weapons or possibly soldiers to aid the rebels.

"I hope that it will finally be possible to bring about an end to these violent confrontations and to get urgently needed aid to the people affected by the violence in eastern Ukraine," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

mkg/shs (Reuters, AFP, dpa)