Sunday 17 December 2017

Merkel: Hopes for Eastern Ukraine peace after pro-Russian separatists agree to ceasefire

Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there is now hope of peace in Eastern Ukraine after pro-Russian separatists to agree to a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine from Sunday.

Russian Premier Vladimir Putin is said to have "pressurised" the separatists into calling a halt to their activities.

Dr Merkel's comments come as European leaders including Taoiseach Enda Kenny are gathering in Brussels today to discuss the overnight deal in Ukraine but also the ongoing debt crisis in Greece.

The Chancellor was speaking as Ukraine was offered $40bn by the International Monetary Fund to stave off financial collapse.           

"After 17 hours, negotiations in Minsk have finished: ceasefire from Feb. 15 at zero hours, then withdrawal of heavy weapons. Therein lies hope," Ms Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Twitter ahead of her arrival in Brussels.

However, the ceasefire is at best fragile.

Ukraine said that 50 tanks had entered the country from Russia during the peace talks.

The deal reached after all-night negotiations in the Belarussian capital Minsk included a ceasefire that would come into effect on 15 February, followed by the withdrawal of heavy weapons.           

Ms Merkel said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko "did everything to achieve the possibility of an end to the bloodshed".

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he welcomed the announcement of the peace deal which is aimed at ending the "horrific violence" in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed more than 5,300 lives.

Speaking after the deal's announcement but ahead of the summit in Brussels, Mr Flanagan said: “I welcome today’s announcement of a peace deal in Minsk aimed at ending the horrific violence in eastern Ukraine which has claimed over 5300 lives and displaced almost a million people in the last ten months.

"Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande will provide full details and an assessment when they brief the Taoiseach and other EU leaders in Brussels today," he added.

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