Leaders lash out at Putin
Speaking at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg Thursday, Petro Poroshenko called for Vladimir Putin (pictured) to prevent weapons from crossing into Ukraine - an allegation the Russian president denies. As part of his peace plan, Poroshenko announced a unilateral ceasefire last Friday, which Putin lent his approval to as part of his recent change of course on Ukraine, though the fighting never completely stopped.
"Without that, we cannot talk about peace," Poroshenko said on Thursday. "Do support the peace plan with deeds, not words, because with these deeds we will stop the killing of civilians and the military who defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state."
Recent clashes between government forces and separatists have killed more than 300. Some groups have observed Poroshenko‘s ceasefire, but, he said, fighting has killed 18 government troops this week.
'Disarm the separatists'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Secretary of State John Kerry said that they sought more action from Putin ahead of Friday's EU summit, where leaders will review the current sanctions against Russia. Speaking in Paris on Thursday, Kerry said that "it is critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that they're moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm."
Merkel also stressed the importance for Russia to show its commitments "in the coming hours," saying on Thursday that German officials would "have to decide how we will further proceed" on possible sanctions against Russia after meeting with Poroshenko on Friday. "The progress is so far not as clear as I would have wished, given the almost seven days of ceasefire," Merkel added as she arrived for talks with fellow EU conservatives in the Belgian city of Kortrijk.
EU leaders will meet Thursday evening in Ypres and Friday in Brussels to weigh the need to impose new sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Officials from both the European Union and the United States say they have prepared tougher economic sanctions against Russia and will use them if necessary.
On Wednesday, Putin won agreement from the upper chamber of Russia's parliament to cancel authorization for the country to use force in Ukraine, which he himself had asked for back in March. And, on Thursday, Putin had a telephone conversation with Merkel, in which the two discussed "the need to extend the ceasefire" in Ukraine and release people held by separatists, according to the Kremlin. Merkel also spoke with Putin on Wednesday, in a conference call with Poroshenko and French President Francois Hollande.
mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)