Ukraine’s president presses Germany ahead of key EU summit

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, seeking Western military aid to end a pro-Russian rebellion in his homeland, has arrived in Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and key German lawmakers.

Details of their talks have not been disclosed.  But the Monday meetings follow warnings last week from Germany’s top diplomat against supplying Kyiv with lethal weaponry to counter the nearly year-long Moscow-backed uprising near the Russian border.

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier, speaking Thursday in Washington, said giving such weapons to Ukraine could send the conflict spinning “out of control.”  He and other European officials also have warned that neither Germany nor France would support any U.S. move to send lethal weaponry.

European Union leaders meeting later this week in Brussels are expected to revisit economic sanctions imposed on Moscow for its support of the uprising, which has claimed more than 6,000 lives since April 2014.

Germany and other EU countries are reported to be pushing for a declaration that would prohibit the easing of those sanctions, unless Moscow fully backs the internationally brokered truce agreement it endorsed in February.

In Moscow, meanwhile, Russian television aired a documentary Sunday in which President Vladimir Putin marked the first anniversary of the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

In the broadcast, Putin says he was ready to bring Russia’s nuclear arsenal into a state of alert early last year, as protests unfolded in Kyiv that led to the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.  It is not clear when the interview took place.

The Russian leader also expanded on an earlier admission that he secretly ordered Russian troops into Crimea weeks ahead of the annexation.  He said an existing treaty with Kyiv allowed the Kremlin to station up to 20,000 troops on the peninsula, and that “even with the numbers we added, we were still short of 20,000.”

The documentary comes as international speculation swirls about Putin’s nearly two-week absence from public view.  In a push to tamp down the controversy, he is set to meet Monday with the Kyrgyzstan president, Almazbek Atambayev, in an event set for extensive coverage by news outlets.