The German and French foreign ministers yesterday made their first visit to Ukraine’s war-torn east since the beginning of the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in April 2014.
German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, arrived in Kramatorsk, a city controlled by the Ukrainian army, a correspondent reported.
Both Ayrault and Steinmeier have urged Kiev’s pro-Western leaders to commit themselves more fully to a 13-point plan agreed in February last year under which the rebels would get partial autonomy within a unified Ukraine, an initiative unpopular among many Ukrainians.
The ministers were met by about 40 demonstrators in front of the office of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, who were protesting against the prospect of giving partial autonomy to the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Protesters brandished signs that said: “We are Ukraine” and “No to a special status for Donbass,” referring to eastern Ukraine’s industrial heartland.
In a meeting with OSCE monitors, the ministers were briefed about ceasefire violations and shown fragments of mines, grenades and other explosive devices found in the area.
The visit comes after one of the bloodiest days in weeks saw government forces and the separatists lose three fighters each.
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