News / Europe

Belarus Meeting Fails to End Fighting in Eastern Ukraine

  • Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (front), Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting with high-ranked officials representing Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the European Union in Minsk, Aug.26, 2
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev looks on prior to their talks in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 26, 2014.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, second left, welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, second right, and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, right, to their talks after after posing for a phot
  • (From L) Russia's President Vladimir Putin, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko meet in the Belarussian capital Minsk, Aug. 26, 2014.
  • Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, right, shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during their meeting in Minsk, Aug. 26, 2014.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin waves as he gets into a car upon his arrival at an airport outside Minsk, Aug. 26, 2014.
  • Smoke rises after shelling in the town of Novoazovsk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 26, 2014.
  • Relatives and friends say good-bye to volunteers before they were sent to the eastern part of Ukraine to join the ranks of a special battalion unit fighting against pro-Russian separatists, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 26, 2014.
  • Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, left, gets traditional salt and bread upon arrival in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 26, 2014.
  • European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, center, is given flowers upon her arrival in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 26, 2014.
  • EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, left, talks to Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, second right, in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 26, 2014.
  • Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko arrives in Minsk airport, Belarus, Aug. 26, 2014.
Conference in Ukraine – Tuesday, Aug. 26
Daniel Schearf

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he has support for a peace plan from all leaders who attended a regional summit Tuesday in Belarus, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But hours later, it remained unclear what immediate impact that support would have on ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces.

Poroshenko and Putin met face-to-face in Minsk for about two hours in talks aimed at ending the months-long crisis in Ukraine.

Afterward, the Russian leader said Moscow will "do everything" to support a peace plan.  But he also said it would be up to the Kyiv government to negotiate cease-fire terms with rebels.

Separately,  Poroshenko said a roadmap for cease-fire talks will be prepared as soon as possible.

Earlier, the discussions ended in lists of demands instead of the truce called for by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shook hands uncomfortably before heading into peace talks in Minsk, while fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed rebel fighters appeared to be spreading in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region.

Poroshenko, speaking in Russian, told delegates that a negotiated compromise is urgently needed: "The fate of Europe and the fate of the world is being decided today in Minsk."

He said that the only effective method for ending bloodshed in eastern Ukraine was enforcing border controls with Russia and stopping the supply of arms to rebels.

Putin insisted that Russians be permitted to meet peacefully with representatives of the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine.

The demand follows several attempts by Russian convoys to deliver what they called humanitarian aid. The Ukrainian government and Western nations believe they may have included shipments of arms to the pro-Russian rebels.

The two leaders, who haven't met face to face since June, were joined by the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan and three senior officials from the European Union, including EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

In opening remarks Tuesday in Minsk, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko urged both sides to "discard political ambitions and not to seek political dividend."

Trading accusations

Putin said the Ukraine crisis cannot be resolved through further escalation of force or without launching a peace dialogue with separatists.

He also said the Russian economy could lose some 100 billion roubles ($2.77 billion) if European Union goods reach Russia via Ukraine, bypassing the tariffs Russia levies on EU goods.

"Russia cannot remain idle in such a case and we will simply be forced to take decisive measures to protect our market," he said, adding that would include reversing trade preferences for imports from Ukraine.

Poroshenko responded by defending a peace plan he issued in June, when the rebels in the southeast Donbass region scorned his invitation to lay down their arms and leave by a safe corridor.

He acknowledged that Russia's key demand – further autonomy for the regions of southeastern Ukraine where support for Russia is strong – must be addressed and the ravages of months of violent conflict must be repaired. Poroshenko invited Belarus and Kazakhstan to contribute to a post-war fund for rebuilding southeast Ukraine.

Calls for a secure border

The Ukrainian president said the first step in a political compromise must be agreement on a secure border "as a key element of the country’s sovereignty and independence."

For that, he is counting on help from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Effective border controls "are only possible with participation of the OSCE," he said, in order to cut off the flow of military hardware and weapons to the pro-Russian rebels.

Russia, which repeatedly has called for a cease-fire, supports what it calls "a dialogue of national unity" that would boost the autonomy of Ukraine's regions.

But a unilateral cease-fire by Kyiv in June was widely seen by Ukrainians as allowing the rebels a breathing space to regroup. Poroshenko could find it difficult to win support at home for a repeat, especially as government forces have the upper hand.

Kyiv says Moscow has been sending military weapons and vehicles to the Ukrainian separatists for months, and independent reports have tended to confirm those claims.

Russia continues to flatly deny that it is arming the rebels, but officials from Moscow did admit Tuesday that 10 Russian paratroopers had been captured inside Ukraine. Quoting a Ministry of Defense official, Russian state media said the troops crossed the border by mistake.

The risk of outright war between Russia and Ukraine, the two most populous former Soviet republics, has alarmed Washington and its NATO allies, while tit-for-tat sanctions between Moscow and the West are threatening to tip the Russian economy into recession and choke off recovery in Europe.

The unrest in Ukraine began last year when former President Viktor Yanukovych abruptly pulled out of the EU trade deal in favor of a pact with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Protests erupted, then violence, and Yanukovych fled to Russia.

Overnight attacks

While officials were preparing to meet in Minsk, local authorities in the main rebel bastion of Donetsk said three civilians were killed in shelling overnight as the army pummels insurgent fighters hunkered down there.

The Ukrainian military said 12 soldiers had been killed and 19 wounded since Monday.

At a frontline Ukrainian military position, soldiers said they battle daily with pro-Russian separatists located about 10 kilometers away.

A rocket-launcher site was destroyed in one of the frequent barrages of rebel fire that come daily, according to a young soldier named Oleg.

"You can't tell, it can be in 10 minutes, in 2 minutes or in 24 hours, or shelling all the time from artillery mortars or grad rockets," he said.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

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by: DellStator from: US
August 28, 2014 12:08 AM
Ever since Germany's leader met with Ukrainian leader this rolling disaster has taken a hard left into the 4th dimension. Ukrainian leader dissolves the gov't. Mysterious peace process announced with no specifics, time table, cease fire - at same time hundreds of Russian tanks pour over the border. US President is totally silent, as is all state and military leaders in the Euro Zone. Even in Ukraine there is near silence instead of the only solution left to them, appeal to nation to volunteer by the millions to stand in front of the Soviet tanks and in all likelihood be slaughtered, hoping that crime against humanity might finally spark some world action more effective than banning the 3rd ass't minister for parks and recreation from visiting Disney World.
Ukraine - I'm sorry my gov't is so faithless, weak, and owned by the rich and powerful, who see so many ways to make billions off your suffering they've muzzled and gelded our "leaders".

by: John from: California
August 27, 2014 4:00 PM
If NATO insists on moving right up to Russia's border, Russia might do the job for NATO by moving Russia's border to coincide with the current western border of Ukraine.
In Response

by: John Null
August 27, 2014 4:32 PM
Makes sense, John. Do it simultaneously. Actually, Finland,Baltics, Poland are right on the RF border. The rest ( Slovakia, Hungary, Romania) on the border with Belarus and Ukraine). NATO should calm down and don't do anything stupid in this very tense situation.

by: John Null
August 27, 2014 3:22 AM
"Belarus Meeting Fails to End Fighting in Eastern Ukraine" ? It can't be solved in one day, but I wouldn't say that the Summit already a failure..come on, VOA, have some patience.

by: Hoang Hoa from: Vietnam
August 26, 2014 11:11 PM
Russian speaking people in Ukraine are Ukrainians. They live in their own lands so It í up to them to stay or leave those land. No one including those in Kiev has a single right to force them to leave their home. 10 russian troops caught by Kiev must be released right away because they entered Ukraine by mistake (only 20 km from Russian border). As far as I know, thousands of Ukrainians including hundred of Ukrainian troops have entered Russian Border without Russian permission. Russia could have launched their own inverstigations into spying cases with those Ukrainians and put many in prisons. But Russians are kind people. After feeding those Ukrainians, Russia have let them leave for Ukraine without charging or fining them. So those in Kiev must stop aggression and release the ten russian troops without condition. Kiev must learn to be kind or no one will be kind to you!
In Response

by: Max from: Ukraine
August 27, 2014 10:03 AM
Ukraine captured russian troops, that's right. But this is 1% of those who crosses the border on tanks and with other heavy weapon. They kill us from russian weapon! Do you think "russian speaking people" on the east of Ukraine have such BTR, BMP, BM-21 "Grad", MPADS or even "BUK" that destroyed Malaysian aircraft? Common, open your eyes!

by: Max from: Ukraine
August 26, 2014 4:14 PM
Ukraine is fighting not only for itself but for rules on the whole world. We fight against Russia - country which army is second in the world. If Ukraine wins, all the world will know that nobody is allowed to grab someone's territory like putin did with Crimea. We thank to USA and EU for support, but what we have now is not enough. We expect either weapon or direct NATO support. Otherwise high chance putin can do the same in Poland, Finland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia or Georgia. Think about that, please.
In Response

by: John from: CA
August 27, 2014 4:24 PM
Max, you seem sincere, but your apocalyptic vision of Russian invasions east, west, north and south is nonsense of the type served up by the US State Department, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, Sen. John McCain and others.
In Response

by: Max from: Ukraine
August 27, 2014 9:56 AM
to John Null:
Your thoughts make sense. But agree the fact that Putin wants to restore USSR. Did you hear about strategic military air base Putin wants in Belarus?
And one correction - I don't want NATO attack, at least now, I didn't write about it, but agreement for tight collaboration with NATO would be a good solution. And plus a road map to join NATO in future.

P.S.Please read about USSR intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968 (Prague spring).
In Response

by: John Null
August 27, 2014 3:03 AM
I think this meeting is strictly regional, and important for both sides..wouldn't call current ATO in Ukraine a fight fpr the world. I'd also keep Georgian civil war with Abkhazia and South Osetia, followed by war between Georgia and RF. It's way too complicated then you think. Every country has a right for self determination.
As far as scaring us in the States with "Putin will annexPoland, Finland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia or Georgia (all NATO members, except Japan), like he did in Republic of Crimea"...this is far fetched fantasy. RF neither need them, nor they can afford any conflicts with NATO countries. Japan, which is our unsinkable air carrier, will never be attacked and has one issue with Moscow - Sakhalin and Kuril islands. I hope that meeting in Minsk will result in positive outcome for all parties.
Your expectations are plausible,but not reasonable..you expect weapons, NATO attack, US involvement in Ukraine over East or Republic of Crimea..they only will push EU,US and RF into major global war, which I believe , nobody wants. I have high hopes for all attending this Summit in Minsk and wish them success.Cheers!

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
August 26, 2014 4:08 PM
Putin insisted that Russians be permitted to meet peacefully with representatives of the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine............Could someone tell Mr Putin that he can't RULE Russia and Ukraine ??he simply can't .
In Response

by: John Null
August 27, 2014 3:17 AM
I think he means establishing non-visa cross border visits, like we have with Canada ( but not with Mexico:))..need a visa, even though they are a members of NAFTA.

by: Valerian Grabovski
August 26, 2014 3:33 PM
FIRST:you should know mr. putin that not anywhere where ruSSian people live the land is their own !!!
SECOND mr. putin: ruSSian people(persons) need to learn one simple rule that is: if you obey the laws of the country of residence- you have not sorrow in y'r fate

by: rangla from: india
August 26, 2014 3:27 PM
Its the right time for putin to take decisive action to end the conflict.y mr president of ukrain keep on killing people.they have the right to decide there future.killing and fighting ll only make the people felt alienated from mainstream ukrain.its a political problem.by following the west ukrain have nothing to gain.as we know wel the west and nato themes is take and forget.go ahead mr putin.
In Response

by: Max from: Ukraine
August 26, 2014 4:19 PM
Listen, you've been informed incorrectly. Ukrainian president tries to stop the war, but Russia tries to cut a part of our territory sending there troops and weapon through not controlled part of border. Russians kill us, our army. We just protect our land.
Read about Georgian conflict in 2008 - putin took Abhazia and S.Osetia as russian-controlled territory. The same is in Moldova. That is buffer zone, where he wants to base its russian army.

by: Ivan Gorokhov
August 26, 2014 3:16 PM
Putler has to be stopped.

Ukrainian people are not the first and not the last Putler will try to conquer unless he is stopped. The more countries he conquers - the more powerful the thug will become and more difficult it will be to stop him in the future.

by: Roge from: Ukraine
August 26, 2014 2:21 PM
Until this conflict in eastern Ukraine,I have thought that the west is strong and nothing can change my mind...but this was wrong. The west is weak,every country,even those of NATO is feared no to spend more than its neighbor on defense,EU is not united,everybody plays his game. Ukraine defined itself as part of EU and in recent decade it did everything possible to come closer to the moment,when it would become one of the member of EU,but Russia does not want that to happen. In some sense EU and USA betrayed Ukraine. I think its reaction on Crimea annexation and sending troops and weapons in eastern Ukraine must be more harsher. NATO is going to defense Baltic country,which once wanted to be a part of EU. Now Ukraine wants to follow the same path but nobody gives a shit what happens with Ukraine in months to come....
In Response

by: Awenmyst from: Montana USA
August 26, 2014 4:37 PM
I wouldn't say that the west is so much weak as it having to go through a political landmine. You have to remember that the west is beholding to voters who may or may not be wanting to be involved....that and remember Europe is largely held hostage due to reliance on Russian natural gas....But that being said, public opinion is changing and mark my words, Russia keeps bullying the Ukraine, it will pay a heavy price.....
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