Ukraine pres­i­dent Poroshenko ac­cuses Rus­sians of send­ing arms to rebel east

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY OLGA NEDBAEVA

Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko on Mon­day ac­cused Rus­sia of send­ing ma­jor mil­i­tary backup to pro-Moscow rebels, speak­ing just ahead of talks on the con­flict with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande.

“Just this week three big con­voys crossed our bor­der to­wards Lu­gansk, Donetsk and De­balt­seve,” Poroshenko said, re­fer­ring to re­bel­con­trolled ar­eas of eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko was set to meet Hol­lande and Merkel in Ber­lin later Mon­day for talks to dis­cuss the re­cent resur­gence of vi­o­lence in Ukraine.

Merkel and Hol­lande have put enor­mous po­lit­i­cal onus on re­solv­ing Ukraine’s 16-month pro-Rus­sian upris­ing and re­turn­ing peace to the Euro­pean Union’s tur­bu­lent eastern front.

Mon­day’s talks will be no­table for their diplo­mat­i­cally charged ex­clu­sion of Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin.

In a speech in Kiev for In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tions, Poroshenko ac­cused Rus­sia of hav­ing sent a to­tal of up to 500 tanks, 400 ar­tillery sys­tems and up to 950 mil­i­tary ar­mored ve­hi­cles to pro-Rus­sian rebels, ap­par­ently talk­ing about the whole con­flict, although he did not spec­ify the time pe­riod for these de­liv­er­ies.

Kiev and Western coun­tries ac­cuse Rus­sia of sup­ply­ing arms to the rebels and de­ploy­ing reg­u­lar troops in the sep­a­ratist east, which Moscow de­nies.

Merkel and Hol­lande met Putin and Poroshenko in the Be­laru­sian cap­i­tal Minsk in Fe­bru­ary, emerg­ing with a peace deal that promised to end the fight­ing quickly and re­solve all po­lit­i­cal dis­putes by the end of the year.

The peace deal has since re­peat­edly been bro­ken by both sides. The death toll in the 16-month-long war is now close to 6,900.

Poroshenko said that 50,000 Rus­sian sol­diers are de­ployed on the bor­der with Ukraine and 9,000 Rus­sian ser­vice­men are among the 40,000 fight­ers of the sep­a­ratist force.

De­spite Western sanc­tions that “deal Rus­sia’s econ­omy a hard blow,” Moscow “has still not given up the idea of a di­rect in­ter­ven­tion or a rebel as­sault in the coun­try’s in­te­rior,” Poroshenko said.

“The war for in­de­pen­dence is still con­tin­u­ing and we can only claim vic­tory by com­bin­ing our de­fen­sive ef­forts, diplo­matic tal­ent, po­lit­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity and steely en­durance,” Poroshenko said.

He was speak­ing at a mil­i­tary pa- rade in Kiev to celebrate 24 years since Ukraine gained in­de­pen­dence from the Soviet Union.

“We must spend our 25th year of in­de­pen­dence as if we are skat­ing on frag­ile ice. The small­est care­less step could be fa­tal,” Poroshenko said.

The pa­rade along Kiev’s main street did not in­clude heavy mil­i­tary hard­ware like last year.

Sol­diers who had fought in the east marched through Kiev, cheered by Ukraini­ans, most of them wear­ing their na­tional dress of em­broi­dered shirts.

In Donetsk, the rebels’ de facto cap­i­tal, some 300 peo­ple gath­ered in the city cen­ter to con­demn what they called “De­pen­dence Day,” car­ry­ing plac­ards say­ing “No to Fas­cism!”, “Poroshenko, you have blood on your hands” and “We are against the war,” an AFP jour­nal­ist saw.

AP

Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko hands over a flag of a mil­i­tary unit as a soldier kisses the flag be­fore a mil­i­tary pa­rade on the oc­ca­sion of Ukraine’s In­de­pen­dence Day in the cap­i­tal Kiev, Ukraine, Mon­day, Aug. 24.

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