Germany warns of new military escalation In Ukraine

2015-08-17 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Germany's foreign minister has warned that urgent Western-backed peace talks must be held to prevent "a new military escalation spiral" in Ukraine. Frank-Walter Steinmeier made the comments after reported intensified clashes in eastern Ukraine and renewed attempts by Kiev to show Russia's military involvement in the conflict between government forces and Russian-backed separatists. 

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

Ukraine's military says at least three civilians have been killed since Friday in east Ukraine during record high shelling by Russian-backed separatists, amid mounting Western concerns over the increased fighting.   Foreign Minister Steinmeier told Germany's Bild Am Sonntag newspaper that he is concerned about increased fighting in eastern Ukraine. 

The German minister said the situation in the area was in his words "explosive" and added that urgent talks must be held to prevent what he called "a new military escalation spiral".

Steinmeier said he has proposed that officials of Kiev and the Russian-backed separatist in eastern Ukraine meet immediately with representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe OSCE.

CEASE-FIRE DEAL 

A cease-fire deal signed in Minsk in February had eased the violence somewhat, but both sides now claim serious violations of the deal.

Ukraine's military and rebels claimed over the weekend that several civilians had died in record high shelling and bombardments, shortly after at least two soldiers were killed as well. 

Recent fighting has focused on control of a strategic highway linking the government-held southeastern port of Mariupol with rebel-controlled Donetsk. 

Amid the clashes, Ukrainian authorities have tried to show the alleged role of soldiers from neighboring Russia in the conflict. 

Ukraine's state security agency released a new video of an apparent Russian Army office r who was detained last month in eastern Ukraine. 

CAMOUFLAGE JACKET

He is shown in an empty room, wearing a camouflage jacket, and is clean-shaven except for a mustache and a goatee. 

The soldier, who officials identified as 37-year-old Major Vladimir Starkov, appeals to Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure his release. He says: "I'm not a combat officer. I am only a 'paper,' a clerical officer."  He adds: "I served 19 years in the Russian Army. And now suddenly no one recognizes me. They're saying there's no one by that name. He didn't serve. How could they do such a thing?" 

The man asks others in the army to recognize him and to get transferred from Ukraine to Russia.     

The United Nations estimates that the conflict has killed more than 6,800 people from April 2014 and has driven at least 1.4 million from their homes. 

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier now hopes that his call for new peace talks will ease tensions in the ongoing fighting. 

(from Vatican Radio)