Hollande, Merkel meet Putin for ‘last-chance’ Ukraine peace plan
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French President François Hollande and Angela Merkel were to head for Moscow on Friday to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin after winning cautious backing from Ukraine’s president for a “last-chance” peace plan.
After meeting Merkel and Hollande on Thursday Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the plan raised “hope for a ceasefire”, although Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenuk insisted that Moscow should honour September’s truce, which has broken down.
“To have a new deal, not to execute the previous one, seems to me a trap,” he commented.
The US, Germany and France accuse Putin of arming separatist movements in eastern Ukraine, as does Kiev.
Details of the plan have not been made public but German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung has reported that it would give the separatists more autonomy and allow them to keep territory they have captured in the last few days.
German officials have denied this.
The paper also claimed that Merkel and Hollande intended to tell Poroshenko that the deal was Ukraine’s last chance to avoid military defeat and economic collapse and threaten Putin with fresh European Union sanctions.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who also visited Kiev, described the Franco-German initiative as “helpful”.
“President Putin could make the choices that could end this war,” he said.
As both the US and the European Union discuss arming Ukraine, he said that Washington is “not interested in a proxy war”.
In other developments:
- Rebels and government officials said 21 people had been killed in the last 24 hours;
- Rebels said Friday morning that a truce had been declared at the town of Debaltseve and empty coaches were spotted heading for it;
- Nato General-Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Britain’s Daily Telegraph that Putin is likely to invade one of the Baltic states to test the alliance’s commitment to defending member-states;
- A leaked 2008 Pentagon report that speculated that Putin has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, was “stupidity not worthy of comment”, his spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
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