Ukraine's foreign minister says the country needs a "real" ceasefire. Pavlo Klimkin’s remarks came a day after the government and separatists agreed on a fresh truce starting on December 9.
At a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Switzerland on Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said that the country needed "a ceasefire not in name, but a ceasefire in substance." The foreign minister also alleged that "Russian-backed terrorists" had shelled the military 40 times a day, resulting in numerous deaths among troops and civilians. Shortly after Klimkin spoke, Ukraine's government announced that separatists had killed six soldiers in the past 24 hours.
"It's not about promises," Kilmkin said. "It's about real delivery on the ground."
Ukraine announced the December 9 ceasefire Thursday. The development could end eight months of fighting that have seen 4,300 people killed and heavy sanctions levied against Russia, which Ukraine's government said had armed and militarily supported the rebels.
At the same OSCE meeting in Switzerland on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said he hoped that the latest ceasefire would lead to a final agreement to stop the fighting. "It is a very difficult situation," Lavrov said, "but I hope parties have come close to concluding a final agreement."
'Obviously domestic motivation'
Before Russia - according to Ukrainian, EU and US leaders - supported the separatists in the eastern cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, it lopped off a peninsula in the country's south, supporting a show vote of secession and moving in its military shortly after. In a speech in Moscow on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin had defended the annexation, considered illegal by much of the international community, saying Russians revere Crimea as much as Jewish people do Jerusalem's Temple Mount.
"It was here that the spiritual source of the long-standing monolith of the Russian nation and the Russian central state were formed," Putin had said on Thursday. He further blamed the United States and European Union for the "tragedy" in Ukraine.
On Friday, Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, called that remark "religious magnification" and also said that it "in no way justifies the breach of international law that Russia committed by the annexation of Crimea." Seibert added that no ethnic group or religion could lay claim to the peninsula and that Putin's remarks had had "an obviously domestic motivation."
The chancellor's spokesman said Germany did not have an anti-Russia stance on Ukraine's conflict but had created its policies in regard to Moscow's various alleged breaches of international law - and that Berlin would prefer to see a diplomatic solution than punitive measures such as sanctions.