EU and Ukraine make show of unity ahead of key security talks with Russia

Western powers urge Moscow to reduce tension as ‘crucial phase’ in diplomacy looms

The European Union's foreign policy chief has visited the frontline of the rumbling war in eastern Ukraine as western powers said they were working closely together and with Kiev ahead of high-stakes security talks with Russia.

Josep Borrell travelled to the Donbas region as the US, Nato and European capitals try to deter possible further Russian aggression against Ukraine, following its annexation of Crimea eight years ago and its creation of a separatist army that seized parts of Donbas in fighting that has killed 14,000 people since 2014.

Russia has moved tens of thousands of troops towards Ukraine in recent weeks, and has threatened to respond with “military-technical” means if the West fails to meet security demands that Moscow handed to Washington last month.

German and French officials are travelling to Moscow for talks on Thursday, then Nato foreign ministers will discuss the situation around Ukraine on Friday, before US and Russian officials meet for strategic stability talks in Geneva next Monday – when Nato will host Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba.


A special Nato-Russian council meeting will then take place in Brussels next Wednesday, followed next Thursday by talks at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which includes the US, European states and Russia.

“With Russia’s increased military build-up, I am here to show EU support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to support sustained reform efforts that are key for resilience,” Mr Borrell said on Wednesday.

“The conflict on the borders is on the verge of getting deeper and tensions have been building up with respect to the European security as a whole,” Mr Borrell added, warning that “any military aggression against Ukraine will have massive consequences and severe costs.”

Mr Kuleba said he fully agreed with Mr Borrell’s assertion that there is “no security in Europe without security of Ukraine. It is clear that any discussion on European security must include the EU and Ukraine” and described the EU envoy’s visit to Donbas as a show of “Ukraine-EU unity in the face of elevated Russian threats.”

Washington assures Nato allies and Ukraine that it will not discuss anything that could undermine them during talks with Russia, which demands a de facto veto on Ukraine’s bid to join the alliance and wants Nato to sharply reduce its military presence in eastern Europe – terms that Kiev and member states reject.

"Now we are entering a crucial phase, in which key talks are planned at different levels," German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said on Wednesday as she flew to Washington for discussions.

“With regard to Russia, the joint message sent by Europeans and the US administration is unmistakeable: Russia’s activities come with a clear price tag, the only way out of the crisis is via dialogue.”

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe