Putin sees hope for new peace deal in E. Ukraine
Vladimir Putin has expressed the hope that a new ceasefire deal in eastern Ukraine will be reached soon. His comment comes after talks with Francois Hollande who made an unscheduled short visit to Moscow to discuss the conflict.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Putin said that while both sides in the Ukrainian conflict are not fulfilling all their obligations, the situation there gives hope for improvement in the near future.
Both Paris and Moscow agree on the need for an “immediate end to the bloodshed," Putin said. He called on Kiev to promptly withdraw its artillery and multiple rocket launchers from the border with the Donbass region.
“The situation [in Ukraine] is tragic, we can see that people are still dying there, but I very much hope that in the near future a final decision on the ceasefire will be made,” he said.
Russia expects Kiev to exclude any possibility of a blockade of the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk republics, he added: "Otherwise it is difficult to imagine the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Russia, as you know, supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine."
“Russia initiated the meeting [between Kiev and representatives of the eastern republics] in Minsk, with our direct participation these protocols were signed, so we support their full implementation,” Putin elaborated.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko announced a new round of talks between Kiev and representatives of the eastern republics will take place on Tuesday. The negotiations will focus on agreeing a schedule for the implementation of the measures to be taken under the Minsk protocol. It is not certain whether Hollande and Putin were referring to Tuesday’s talks when speaking in Moscow. The proposed date of talks coincided with the so-called “Day of Silence”, when both sides of the conflict vowed to observe a ceasefire.
Hollande made an unexpected stop in Moscow’s Vnukovo-2 airport as he traveled from neighboring Kazakhstan to France on Saturday.
"I was flying over Moscow and made a decision to stop over here for discussing the most significant issues related to Ukraine's crisis and to all the sufferings stemming out of it for the Ukrainians, for the European Union and for Russia as well," Hollande said.
Putin welcomed his counterpart and thanked him for the visit, saying that it “certainly will benefit the resolution of many problems.”
The French leader said he was eager to continue the discussion started at the G20 in Australia and at the three-way meeting between himself, Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during D-Day celebrations in France.
“On June 6 we talked about the need to find solutions, to work together. We’ve talked with Angela Merkel. We believe that Russia and France will be able to find the necessary solution,” he said. "I believe at some moment it is necessary to overcome the obstacles, the walls, which may separate us, and I believe we can do this."
Tensions between Russia and France have been on the rise as Paris has come under to annul delivery of Mistrals, helicopter-carrying amphibious assault ships, to Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis.
As a result, in late November Hollande decided to suspend the delivery of the first such ship "until further notice".
Moscow has urged Paris to fulfill the agreement with top-ranking officials adding Russia will sue France should the ship not be delivered at all. France is facing a multibillion dollar fine, if it fails to deliver under the contract. The delay of the warships’ delivery has reportedly entailed additional costs for Paris.
On Saturday, Putin said that the two leaders did not speak about the delay as Moscow proceeds from the fact that the contract will be fulfilled. Otherwise Russia expects full compensation from France, he added.