Trump will try to bring peace to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's first conversation with the new US leader came during a sharp escalation in violence in the Russian-backed separatist east that has claimed 35 lives in the past week.

Trump will try to bring peace to Ukraine

World Bulletin / News Desk

US President Donald Trump told Ukraine's leader on Saturday that he would work with Kiev and Moscow to try to end the bloodshed in the European Union's backyard.

It also took place as the former Soviet republic worries that Trump is seeking to build a friendship with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Some analysts linked the escalation of the violence to this potential thaw in relations while others attributed it to more local issues.

Yet Poroshenko's hope of the same US commitment to his impoverished country as the one seen under the Barack Obama administrations appeared to have been dashed by a rather neural statement from Trump.

"We will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border," the White House quoted Trump as saying.

Poroshenko himself put a more positive spin on the high-profile conversation.

His office said that the "sides expressed deep apprehension about the escalation in violence and the deterioration of the humanitarian situation".

It added that the two presidents "spoke in favour of energising dialogue at all levels with the new US administration".

The talks follow Trump's phone conversation with Putin on January 28 that both sides described as constructive.

- Battle for Avdiivka -
The rebels agreed with Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday to sign up to calls for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the flashpoint town of Avdiivka by Sunday.

But the demand for the shooting to stop has not halted the violence and so far there are few signs of the big guns being pulled back from around the Kiev-held town of 25,000 at the centre of the fighting.

Early Saturday passed relatively calmly in Avdiivka -- just five kilometres (three miles) north of the insurgent's de facto capital of Donets -- compared with previous days.

But the Ukrainian army said one of its soldiers had been killed in the area.

A rebel military commander was also killed in a car bombing that appeared to have been linked to an internal dispute over power and unrelated to the ongoing violence.

Most of those in the blue-collar town work in a major coke plant that has been heavily damaged by the shelling.

Avdiivka remained without electricity on Saturday and had only sporadic power supplies to heat homes against freezing temperatures and limited supplies of water.

The giant plant provides electricity for much of the region and has been the target of previous deadly rebel attacks.

Plant spokesman Dmytro Murashko told AFP that work brigades tried and failed again Saturday for the second day running to repair broken power lines after shelling halted their earlier efforts.

The call to withdraw heavy weapons was made under the coordination of mediators from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

It provides for the "withdrawal by 5 February 2017 into permanent storage sites of all weapons regulated by Minsk agreements to the distances defined in them and beyond the respective lines".

- Broken peace deal -
The Minsk deal was signed in February 2015 and defined a step-by-step solution to one of Europe's bloodiest conflicts since the 1990s Balkans wars.

It has since been repeatedly broken. This prompted Wednesday's meeting of negotiators to call for the warring sides to ensure "strict adherence to (a) full and comprehensive cessation of fire".

The 33-month conflict began shortly after Ukraine ousted its Russian-backed leader in February 2014.

Moscow responded by annexing Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in March 2014 before allegedly plotting the eastern insurgency to keep Ukraine under its thumb.

Washington's UN ambassador Nikki Haley on Thursday condemned Russia's "aggressive actions" in Ukraine -- a surprising attack given Trump's supportive stance toward Putin.

Russia denies any responsibility for the conflict and blames the United States for igniting three months of massive street protests that turned Ukraine toward the West.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Şubat 2017, 13:23
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