Ukraine, Russian envoys reach ‘mutual understanding’ on parts of peace plan

Ukraine’s foreign ministry says it has reached a “mutual understanding” with Russia on key stages of a peace plan for eastern Ukraine.

A ministry statement Monday offered no details, after a second day of negotiations in Kyiv mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

But the statement said the contact group has agreed to continue talks aimed at ending fighting in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine.

The talks follow a face-to-face meeting last week between Russian President Vladimir Putin and new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko – the first high-level contact between the two governments since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in March.

Since Poroshenko’s May 25 election, Ukraine forces have strengthened military operations aimed at regaining control of key government facilities seized by pro-Russian separatists near the Russian border. Casualties have mounted on both sides, and the Ukrainian leader has demanded an immediate withdrawal of Russian support for the rebellion.

In his inaugural address Saturday, Poroshenko insisted that Crimea is and will remain Ukrainian. But he also pledged to establish dialogue in the Russian-speaking east aimed at easing political and ethnic tensions. Moscow has demanded such talks as the basis for any future bilateral cooperation.

In other developments, Ukrainian and Russian energy negotiators met late Monday in Brussels in a push to resolve a natural gas dispute that threatens supplies to energy-dependent Ukraine.

Moscow last month threatened to cut off supplies as early as Tuesday, if Ukraine does not pay its existing multi-billion dollar energy debt. Kyiv has since made partial payments, while both governments have voiced cautious optimism a pricing deal on future deliveries can be reached.


(Photo, from Luhansk in May 2014: Anastasia Vlasova)