European Leaders Make A Show Of Support For Ukraine On Its National Day

BERLIN, Germany -- Clinging to a deal on Ukraine that has never been fully enacted, the leaders of Germany, France and Ukraine called on Monday — the 24th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence — for the bloodshed to end.

Border Guard Troopers Of The Ukrainian Army In Kiev, Ukraine, August 24, 2015.

President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine arrived in Berlin hours after warning his people at a ceremony in Kiev that “we must walk through the 25th year of independence as if we are walking on thin ice.”

“We have to understand: the slightest misstep can be fatal,” he said, illustrating the precarious state of his country.

In Berlin, he expressed thanks for the support from Germany, France and the broad coalition of nations that he said had supported Ukraine since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 and helped foment armed rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said that “first and foremost, everything must be done to make the cease-fire a reality.”

The tattered truce, never fully observed, has frayed further in recent weeks, and the death toll in the conflict has edged toward 7,000.

German officials have said that Monday’s meeting was held to show Russia that the three other parties still believed that the accord, which was negotiated in Minsk in February by the leaders of the four nations, was the basis for restoring peace.

“We are here to implement the Minsk deal, not to call it into question,” Ms. Merkel said, alluding to reports that cast the meeting as a snub to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The four-nation formula can take on various forms, Ms. Merkel noted.

She cited as one example a meeting of Russian and Ukrainian legal experts held in Berlin last week to try and find a way forward on constitutional and other reforms in Ukraine.

Sergey V. Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, said on Monday that he hoped Ms. Merkel and Mr. Hollande “will insist” on Ukraine enacting “everything that has been agreed” in Minsk.

Mr. Poroshenko cited one example of potential progress: the agreement to set up by Aug. 31 three centers along the combat line that would enable the distribution of humanitarian aid to people in areas occupied by Moscow-backed rebels.

German officials have voiced frustration in recent weeks that even such apparently simple and obvious acts are often fraught with difficulty.

In his speech at home to mark Ukraine’s national holiday, Mr. Poroshenko struck a more combative tone, accusing Moscow of still pursuing the idea of attacking Ukraine directly.

Both he and Putin have different constituencies to court in their respective countries, often further obstructing the enactment of the Minsk accord.

“We know that the Minsk process is not perfect,” one German official said earlier this month, describing the situation on condition of anonymity.

“But it is the process we have,” and — in Berlin’s view, at least — has prevented even worse fighting. 

Meanwhile, Denis Pushilin, a leader of the pro-Russian rebels in the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, called on Ms. Merkel and President Fran├žois Hollande of France “to convince Mr. Poroshenko to return to the Minsk format.”

If the two Western leaders did not succeed, Pushilin told reporters in Donetsk, then the city and surrounding region, known as the Donbass, “are in for further destruction and victims, and Ukraine is in for new encirclements.”

Source: The New York Times