German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to reboot attempts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine with a summit between the presidents of France, Ukraine and Russia. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.
No other conflict has occupied the time of Angela Merkel more than the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian army has been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country for nearly three years.
Germany and France tried to act as mediators at an early stage. But agreements brokered in Minsk in 2014 and 2015, which laid the foundations for the peace process, have still not been implemented.
Merkel has already spoken about the issue with France’s new leader, Emmanuel Macron, who hopes to continue the work started by his predecessor, François Hollande.
On Saturday (20 May), Merkel met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko north of Berlin, after meeting Vladimir Putin in Sochi earlier this month.
Even though the Minsk agreements have not been respected and agreed-to deadlines long since elapsed, Merkel and the three presidents want to stick with the roadmap for peace.
Poroschenko said at his meeting with Merkel that the fulfilment of the Minsk criteria is “inevitable” and that there is no alternative to the agreement at the moment.
The Minsk agreements involve the beginning of an armistice and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from a buffer zone, as well as municipal elections in the separarist areas and more autonomy for eastern Ukraine.
While the peace process remains elusive, a number of other developments have happened, including the issuing of passports recognised by Moscow, the adoption of the ruble as a payment method and the expropriation of Ukrainian companies.
Berlin fears that these measures could lead to further conflict and violence in the region. After her meeting with Putin, Merkel voiced her concerns about “separation tendencies”.
According to the UN, more than 9,900 people were killed between April 2014 and February 2017 in eastern Ukraine, including 2,000 civilians. More than 23,000 people have been injured. These figures are conservative estimates.
The high number of civilian casualities is due not only to the shelling of densely populated areas but deadly landmines and unexploded ammunition. In March and April alone, 22 people in Donbass were killed by mines. Some 3.8 million Ukrainians are now dependent on humanitarian aid.
But the chances of a ceasefire in Donbass are slim. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported 421 explosions in the region in just 24 hours, most of which were caused by heavy artillery, as well as gunfire.
Separatist forces have increasingly restricted access and in April, an OSCE official was killed when a patrol vehicle ran over a mine in the separatist zone.
Only hours before meeting Merkel, Poroschenko announced more tanks would be sent to the front. “We are continuing to work to strengthen our ability to defend ourselves,” the president wrote on his Facebook page, as well as posting a promotional video from an armaments company that builds the T-80 tank.