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EU Leaders Join Ukraine-Russia Talks

June 29, 2014
by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

European Union leaders have held talks with the presidents of Russia and Ukraine as a truce between Ukrainian government forces and separatists neared its end.

The French presidency said the June 29 telephone conference between President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine lasted "more than two hours."

It said the leaders discussed 'the importance of making new concrete advances in the security situation on the ground, prolonging the cease-fire, and putting in place the peace plan' presented by Ukraine.

The Kremlin said the four leaders called on Poroshenko to extend the truce in eastern Ukraine, which is due to end on June 30 at 11 p.m. local time (2000 GMT/UTC).

Poroshenko said he will have another phone conference with Putin, Hollande, and Merkel on June 30.

The conversation comes after reports of renewed clashes in eastern Ukraine, where security forces have been battling pro-Russian separatists.

Ukraine's military said five soldiers were killed and at least 17 injured in Donetsk and Luhansk regions over the weekend.

Rebels also seized an air-defense unit in Donetsk and took several servicemen prisoner.

Meanwhile, several thousand demonstrators gathered outside the presidential administration building in Kyiv to demand an end to the cease-fire, some wearing camouflage uniforms and balaclavas.

The protesters demanded that President Petro Poroshenko declare martial law in eastern Ukraine, give sufficient weapons to volunteer battalions to fight the 'terrorists,' and social guarantees for servicemen involved in the army's military operation in the east.

They also called on the president to demand tougher EU sanctions against Russia for supporting the separatists

There have been dozens of violations of the weeklong cease-fire, extended by Poroshenko on June 27 by 72 hours.

The cease-fire is part of a peace plan announced by Poroshenko last week. It is now set to expire on June 30.

On June 28, the separatists released four out of a total of eight OSCE monitors they seized at the end of May. The other four monitors were released earlier.

A senior OSCE mediator in eastern Ukraine, Mark Etherington, said the abductions 'substantially constrained' the work of the OSCE monitors at a time when it was 'essential' in helping to restore peace and stability in the country.

The self-styled prime minister of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic,' Aleksandr Borodai, said, 'We consider that we have fulfilled all our obligations.'

The release of the monitors was one of the demands made by EU leaders to Russia on June 27 in Brussels as a sign of Moscow's working to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine.

Chancellor Merkel has warned Moscow the EU was prepared for 'drastic measures' if no progress was made on Poroshenko's 15-point peace plan, which involves decentralizing power and holding early local and parliamentary elections.

With reporting by UNIAN, Interfax, and AFP


Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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