Poroshenko says Russia threat to ‘entire democratic world’
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia on Friday of challenging the “entire democratic world” by annexing Crimea and allegedly arming separatist rebels in the east of his ex-Soviet state.
The pro-Western leader also called on Ukraine’s Western allies to toughen their trade and other sanctions on the Kremlin and its biggest firms, should Moscow fail to fulfil the terms of a tentative peace deal to the 17-month war.
“By the aggression against sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russia has actually challenged the entire democratic world,” the 49-year-old former chocolate tycoon told the Yalta Annual Meeting (YES) that had been held in Crimea until its annexation by Russia last year.
“Ukraine and its allies are preventing Russia from growing in its aggression and stretching its deadly neo-imperial ambitions further,” Poroshenko told the international conference.
The meeting comes with government forces and pro-Moscow insurgents largely abiding by a new September 1 ceasefire agreement that was meant to reinforce a broader — but repeatedly broken — deal signed in February in the Belarussian capital Minsk.
The February pact is designed to end one of Europe’s deadliest conflicts in decades by the end of the year. It is also meant to give broader autonomy to the Russian-speaking Lugansk and Donetsk regions within a unified Ukraine.
But the sides have fought bitterly over how the 13-point deal should come into force.
Poroshenko told his audience that “we must make clear that not only current sanctions will stay in place as long as Russia occupies the Crimea and fuels turmoil in the Donbas but also enhanced restrictive measures will follow if Russia further obstructs the settlement process.
“We must drive Russia to follow the logic of the Minsk agreements,” he said.
Kiev accuses Russia of covertly sending around 8,000 crack troops into the war zone and supplying an estimated 40,000 insurgency fighters with sophisticated rockets and heavy tanks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denies the charges and accuses the United States of orchestrating protests that led to the downfall of a Kremlin-backed president in February 2014.
Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea a few weeks later. The separatist conflict broke out in April 2014.