Russia, Ukraine agree to work on ceasefire

By Ingrid Melander

The leaders of Russia and Ukraine have agreed to work on a ceasefire between separatists and the Ukrainian authorities and on quickly setting up effective border controls, the French president’s office said on Monday.

The statement followed a telephone conversation between German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko and French President Francois Hollande, the second such call in as many days.

After what Hollande’s office said was a long conversation, Putin and Poroshenko also agreed to work on the liberation of more hostages and prisoners and the organisation of “substantial tripartite negotiations”, according to the statement.

Poroshenko had urged Putin on Sunday to strengthen Russian control over its borders to prevent militants and arms entering Ukraine after violence led to breaches of a truce there.

The ceasefire, declared by Poroshenko on June 20 to allow for peace talks with the pro-Russian rebels, was due to expire on Monday. That was also the deadline set by EU leaders considering new sanctions against Russia.

The European Union, which signed an historic free-trade pact with Ukraine on Friday, has warned it could impose more sanctions on Moscow unless pro-Russian rebels act to wind down the crisis in the east of the country by Monday.

Putin again urged that the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine be extended and a control mechanism to monitor the truce set up, with the participation of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Kremlin said in a separate statement after the talks.

“The leaders spoke in favour of convening a third round of consultations between Kiev and south-eastern regions as soon as possible,” it added.

Hollande’s office said Russia’s and Ukraine’s foreign ministers would be in touch later in the day and that a contact group on Ukraine would meet, also on Monday, to discuss implementing all the agreed moves.

Speaking after the presidents’ call, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian state TV that Moscow was ready to allow monitors from the OSCE and Ukraine’s border guard to the Russian side of the border for joint control.