THE LEVANT EXCLUSIVE – Exclusive from Kiev, By Julia Lugovska – Situation in Eastern Ukrainian Donbas region still remains extremely tense, with the continuous shelling of the position of Ukrainian military and of the cities and local villages by the pro-Russian terrorists and Russian troops. Despite the recent talks held in Paris between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian President Vladimir Putin, ended with an agreement to withdraw Russian troops and heavy military technique from Ukrainian territory and form the border zone as well, Russian troops and new mercenaries and the new convoys of military equipment continue to arrive in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The situation in the Eastern Ukraine threatens national security and also the upcoming early parliamentary elections to be held on 26 October. Ukrainian officials and the Western leaders as well express their deep concern over the current situation in those regions and emphasize the real threat to the electoral process in those regions. Despite the worsening situation though both Western politicians and Ukrainian side are willing to find the political, peaceful solution of the deepening crisis, which will allow to halt violence and all the hostilities in the region and to start its rebuilding.
After failed ceasefire agreement reached during the Minsk talks Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin met to negotiate Ukrainian crisis and the gas issue. The meeting was held within the framework of the ASEM Summit held on 17-18 October in Milan, Italy, and it was attended by the prominent leaders of the EU countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, British Prime Minister David Cameron and EU heads, President of European Council Herman van Rompuy and Head of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso.
The sides have been discussing the Donbas crisis, the necessity of the ceasefire in the region and the gas issue, which is important for EU as well. These talks were viewed by many as a chance to make the further progress in the relationships between Ukraine and Russia and the chance to find the solution to the Donbas crisis, but the Milan talks have failed, as the sides didn’t manage to find the common solution and to hear each other’s positions.
It’s worth mentioning only that the participants emphasized the importance of applying the Minsk ceasefire agreement terms, what is important to stop the violence in Eastern Ukraine. Ukraine and Western countries as well demanded Putin to withdraw his troops and military technique from Ukrainian territory and border and to stop supporting and financing pro-Russian terrorists, the so called “rebels”, operating in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It’s important for the further relationships between Russian and the international community that Russia would clearly show its intention and readiness to deescalate the crisis, and it’s the only one condition for lifting the sanctions, imposed earlier by EU against Russia due to its aggression in Ukraine.
The Milan talks between Mr. Poroshenko and Mr. Putin were mediated by the European leaders and went in three rounds. The first round was held in the wide format and was attended by all the seven EU leaders, participated in the Summit. The second round was held under the mediation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, while third round was held between Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin.
Petro Poroshenko, who stated he was optimistic about the upcoming meeting at the beginning, didn’t show enough optimism about its outcomes after the talks finished and declared that sides didn’t find the solution to the crisis. All the sides agreed to commit to the Minsk agreement and to ensure the ceasefire regime. In addition to that the sides stated that they totally support territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and condemned Russian interference and aggression on Ukrainian territory. Though Russia and Ukraine failed to make more progress and there were too much “misunderstandings and disagreements” during the talks, according to the press-service of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The only one significantly positive outcome of the Milan talks was an agreement between Ukraine and Russia to start the process of the border closure. The meetings of the members and representatives of the border control service and international observers are scheduled for the next week.
Though, European leaders had different views and comments regarding the results of the Milan talks. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was clearly disappointed by the outcome of this meeting, as the sides failed to achieve any progress, and there was no significant result shift in the Russian-Ukrainian relations, so the sides actually remained on their previous positions, refusing to find the compromises.
Jose Manuel Barroso in his turn stated that Mr. Poroshenko and Mr. Putin agreed on meeting the terms of the Minsk agreements “for creating of trust between the sides” and declared there were three important demands for the further progress: verification of the ceasefire agreement, holding early parliamentary elections all over Ukraine, including the volatile Eastern Ukrainian region, and establishing of the border control and monitoring.
Herman van Rompuy emphasized that despite the fact that the sides demonstrated their commitment to the terms of the Minsk agreement and despite the fact that Mr. Putin stated he isn’t interested in the frozen conflict in Eastern Ukraine and turning this zone into another Transnistria, there was no significant political result of these negotiations, and the talks should be continued.
EU leaders also stated that Russia should do more influencing the pro-Russian “rebels” and urged Kremlin to do everything possible in order to deescalate the conflict.
Meanwhile, heavy fights still continue between Ukrainian Armed Forces and National Guard and Russian terrorists and pro-Russian rebels, as the rebels continue holding several important cities and objects in Donbas region, including the major cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.