Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Russia has ‘hours’ to help Kiev: US

AFP, PARIS

A pro-Russian separatist guards a road checkpoint outside the town of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

The US yesterday warned Russia it had only “hours” to prove it was helping disarm Ukrainian insurgents whose separatist drive has reopened a Cold War-style chasm in East-West ties.

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s warning came a day before Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is to sign the final chapters of a historic EU accord that will nudge his country toward eventual membership and out of Russia’s reach.

Poroshenko also wants German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to join him in a second round of telephone diplomacy with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week.

Putin on Wednesday came under pressure from European leaders and US President Barack Obama to rein in separatist fighters whom he denies exerting control over.

Obama said sweeping economic sanctions were imminent unless the Kremlin stopped “the flow of weapons and militants across the border,” while US Secretary of State John Kerry was even more explicit in remarks he gave in Paris yesterday after talks with French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius.

“We are in full agreement that it is critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that they’re moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm, to call on them to lay down their weapons and to begin to become part of a legitimate process,” Kerry said.

The US Department of State added that sanctions would be also discussed by EU leaders today when they sign the full Association Agreement with Ukraine that was ditched by ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych last year and now lies at the heart of the raging crisis.

After 11 weeks of fighting that claimed more than 435 lives and brought factories in Ukraine’s economically vital rustbelt to a virtual standstill, clashes continued yesterday despite a ceasefire agreement between Kiev and the rebels.

Putin has urged Kiev to extend the truce to give more time to peace negotiations that the warring sides began on Monday and were due to continue yesterday, when Poroshenko was due to submit to parliament constitutional changes that stop well short of meeting the Kremlin’s demands.

His proposal would enshrine in the constitution the use of the Russian language in independence-minded regions such as Donetsk and Lugansk. Poroshenko said he was also willing to let local legislatures nominate regional governors instead of having them named directly by the president.

Yet analysts from political consultancy Eurasia Group said there remained “an unbridgeable gap” between what Russia wants and what Poroshenko was willing to cede.

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