Ukraine seeks European help as shelling blazes in east
Ukraine pressed European leaders Monday to send peacekeepers to stabilize the wartorn east, as monitors reported a surge in shelling near a strategic government-held city.
Top European Union officials landed in Kiev for a key summit with the former Soviet state as it faces off against separatists in the east, whom its Western allies accuse Russia of backing.
The EU leaders pressured Ukraine’s government to speed up anti- corruption reforms to clean up Ukrainian politics and business in return for closer ties with the bloc.
“You have a powerful enemy, but you also have a lot of friends. You can count on their help, but it will not be enough unless you yourself change Ukraine,” said EU President Donald Tusk.
Ukraine’s pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko says the country first needs more help to stabilize the industrial east, where separatists have seized partial control of two regions and shelling is rumbling on despite a February ceasefire.
Observers with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) near the flashpoint town of Shyrokyne said they had witnessed “the most intense shelling” since fighting began there in mid-February, as well as movement of heavy weapons.
Ahead of the summit Poroshenko called on EU leaders to “provide powerful signals in support of Ukraine and its European integration.”
His office said it had “agreed to continue coordination” with EU officials on the possibility of a peacekeeping force.
An EU official said ahead of the summit: “We are studying these proposals in detail.” But he added that the EU saw “no reason” to replace the OSCE monitors.
The official said the EU will stand up for Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and aims to see Kiev regain full control of its eastern border in 2015.
Poroshenko joined hands
in front of the cameras with Tusk and the European Commission’s top executive Jean-Claude Juncker before a series of closed-door talks.
The three were scheduled to give a news conference at 1315 GMT.
The top commissioner for EU enlargement negotiations, Johannes Hahn, meanwhile met Ukraine’s Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko to discuss financial and administrative reforms, Hahn said in a Twitter message.
After the EU meetings, Poroshenko was to meet other international officials on Tuesday at a conference to showcase Ukraine’s reforms and lure much-needed investment.