Leaders seek to end fighting in eastern Ukraine

2015-02-16 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have agreed that fighting should end around a railway hub in eastern Ukraine where clashes continue despite a ceasefire accord.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report:


Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko's office made the announcement following Sunday's phone call between him and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande agreed.

Pro-Russian separatists say they have encircled as many as 8,000 people in Debaltseve, a strategic railway link between the rebel stronghold of Donetsk and Luhansk and say it should become part of territory under their control.

However Poroshenko claims a road to the town remains open and that Ukrainian troops have been resupplied with ammunition. It has been difficult for Europe's security organization OSCE to verify those claims as its monitors were apparently refused access by the rebels.

The OSCE says it has dispatched as many as 20 patrols to apparently monitor the ceasefire in other regions.

Underscoring mistrust

However the stand-off as underscored mistrust between Ukraine's Western-leaning government and rebels who seek an alliance with Russia.

Speaking at a partly televised meeting with defense chiefs, President Poroshenko warned the separatists that his forces will react in case the ceasefire is seriously violated.

“I will deliberately not say what Ukraine will do if a peace process collapses," said Poroshenko, wearing a uniform as commander-in-chief.

"I will say only that after being slapped in one cheek we will not show the other one. And let God forgive me, I hope very much that this very last chance to start a long and difficult peace process – aimed at finding a political solution in Donbas – will not be missed,” the president added.

But there is no evidence that the ceasefire is observed around Debaltseve. People leave, including the elderly who also experienced fierce fighting here during World War Two.

Three generations

A rebel fighter isn't optimistic about the future. "Too much blood has been shed on both sides" said the fighter who identified himself by his nickname "Cat" for security reasons. "Two or three generations need to pass to even start forget about this. Too many people have suffered and have been killed on both sides."

At least two people are known died in attacks in eastern Ukraine since the ceasefire went into effect Sunday, shortly after midnight, officials said.

Later Monday fighting parties were to start removing heavy weapons from the front lines.

With more than 5,300 people killed and over a million refugees residents here can't wait when the guns fall silent.

(from Vatican Radio)