Claims of Russian attack overshadow Ukraine peace talks

Kiev says Russian forces are fighting alongside rebels and troops by Ukraine border

Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, looks on during the Crystal Award ceremony ahead of the opening of the 45th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday.  Photograph: Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA

Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, looks on during the Crystal Award ceremony ahead of the opening of the 45th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA

 

Top diplomats intend to meet today to try to salvage crumbling hopes of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine, where officials claim government forces are now fighting Russian troops as well as pro-Moscow rebels.

The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France will gather in Berlin for talks on how to halt a sharp intensification of fighting and implement a ceasefire plan agreed in September in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

The Minsk agreement is now in tatters, with Kiev accusing Moscow of sending troops into Ukraine to aid separatists who have allegedly seized swathes of territory since the ceasefire was declared.

Last night, Ukrainian army spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that “contrary to all agreements, Ukrainian military units were attacked . . . by regular military units of the Russian armed forces”.

He said “heavy fighting” was taking place but Kiev’s troops had “halted the advance of the Russian forces” between the villages of Zymohirya and Slovyanoserbsk, west of the rebel-held city of Luhansk. Col Lysenko claimed other Russian military units were approaching the border with Ukraine.

Military confrontations

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, said the talks would focus on “achieving concrete progress [in halting clashes] on the line of contact; the withdrawal of heavy artillery; on access of humanitarian aid to those who really need it right now; real progress in the release of the hostages.”

“The key – even critical – thing, is to restore control over the Ukrainian-Russian border, and last time the Russian side was not ready to discuss this point,” Mr Klimkin said. “Only on these terms can we achieve results.” Ukraine this week accused Russia of sending two battalions of soldiers with heavy weapons across the rebel-controlled border that it has failed for months to seal, and which serves as the main supply route for the heavily armed insurgents.

Absolute rubbish

Igor KonashenkovSwitzerland

Mr Klimkin accused the rebels of “using the fact that our forces stuck to the key positions of the ceasefire . . . to seize very considerable territory – more than 500 square kilometres.”

He also insisted that all forces return to lines agreed in the September pact.