Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko yesterday (1 February) accused Russia of sending troops and weapons into the ex-Soviet state’s conflict-torn east, warning that a fragile peace deal was not being fully implemented.
“It’s terrible that after the Minsk agreement … we still face serious security problems in the Donbass,” Poroshenko said in reference to the pro-Russian separatist region, ahead of talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Kyiv and Moscow finalised a ceasefire deal brokered by France and Germany in the Belarus capital of Minsk last February, but sporadic clashes still took place on the frontline.
Poroshenko accused “Russia and its proxies” of failing to observe the ceasefire, and of some 1,200 shellings in January alone.
Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are denied access to the border, he said, adding that “this is not surprising as Russia still supplies troops, heavy weapons and ammunition to Donbass over the border and does not want witnesses to these illicit activities”.
Merkel also noted that “unfortunately we still, as before, do not have a sustainable ceasefire”.
Noting that full implementation of the peace deal was a prerequisite to any easing of Western sanctions against Russia, the German leader said: “We think it is for the good of everybody if Minsk is implemented.”
Kyiv and the West have accused Russia of supporting the insurgency and sending regular troops across the border, claims that Moscow has repeatedly denied.
Over 9,000 people have been killed and more than 20,000 injured in the conflict in Ukraine since April 2014, according to the United Nations.
In an exclusive interview for EurActiv, Lamberto Zannier, Secretary General of OSCE, explained that the organisations’ observers were indeed unable to observe the Ukraine-Russia border in the rebel-held territories.
The leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine (the so-called Normandy format) gave their support to a deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine, following 17-hour long negotiations in the Belarussian capital Minsk on 12 February.
The four leaders committed to respecting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to a joint declaration.
Western leaders are closely observing the implementation of the Minsk agreement.
On 2 March 2015, European leaders said that they agreed that the OSCE needed a broader role as observers of the ceasefire, and weapons removal.
On 2 October 2015, the leaders of the Normandy format admitted that it would take time to organise elections in Ukraine that respect international standards and as a result, the so-called Minsk peace process would run into next year.