Ukraine reported intensified shelling in its war-ravaged east as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the terms of a month-old truce aren’t being met.
The government reported one death among its forces the past day, saying pro-Russian insurgents fired artillery rounds at the military on 33 occasions. While the cease-fire “isn’t flawless,” the tendency in Ukraine is “unambiguously positive,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. The rebels yesterday described the truce as all but dead.
“It’s obvious that the Minsk agreement isn’t implemented yet,” Merkel said today after talks with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz in Berlin. Drones could be used to monitor the truce, “but the condition for everything is that the cease-fire really holds. You can see how fragile the situation is right now.”
While the truce, sealed Sept. 5, has reduced the bloodshed in Ukraine’s easternmost regions, it’s been marred by daily violence. There have been at least 331 deaths since the deal was agreed, the United Nations estimates. The rebels say they’re ready to resume peace talks once Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe agree on the terms.
Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said today in Washington that more international financing will be needed to prop up Ukraine’s war-battered economy, but that not all of the funding should come from the IMF. Lagarde, speaking at an event during the IMF’s fall meetings, said other lenders will need to participate, without providing details.
The Washington-based IMF has already approved a $17 billion bailout loan to help Ukraine stay afloat.
Ukrainian central bank chief Valeriya Gontareva said last month the official support program from the IMF envisages a 6.5 percent shrinkage in the country’s gross domestic product this year. She said the “really drastic deterioration of economic conditions” will cause a revision showing an even larger economic contraction.
“I suppose that it will be minus 9 percent, or even 10 percent,” she told reporters in Kiev on Sept. 13.
Olexander Motsyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., told reporters in Washington that 3,000 Russian troops remain on the Ukrainian side of the border between the two countries. He said the cease-fire has been violated more than 1,000 times though “it’s difficult to say” if the violations have been committed by Russian forces or pro-Russian separatists. ►
One civilian was killed in Donetsk in fighting today, the city council said on its website, while artillery rounds were heard all day in the city.
Ukraine, the U.S. and the European Union blame Russia for providing weapons, financing and troops to the separatists, an allegation Moscow denies. The two sides imposed tit-for-tat sanctions that have depressed economic growth in both the EU and Russia, causing the latter to flirt with a recession.
The ruble weakened 0.1 percent to 40.05 against the dollar by 6 p.m. in Moscow. The Micex Index rose 0.3 percent, while the yield on local-currency bonds due February 2027 was unchanged at 9.69 percent.
Lavrov, at a meeting of Commonwealth of Independent States foreign ministers in Belarus, said resolving the six-month conflict in Ukraine hinges on constitutional changes involving all the nation’s regions and political forces. Ukraine, which was represented by its ambassador to Belarus, was only discussed on the sidelines of the meeting, he said. President Vladimir Putin will join regional leaders tomorrow in Minsk.
While the cease-fire may not be fully observed, Russia deems the move constructive and a positive process, Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign-policy aide, told reporters today in Moscow. Putin may meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Merkel and French leader Francois Hollande at a summit in Milan next week. He isn’t asking for sanctions to be lifted, Ushakov said.
Lavrov will meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris Oct. 14, the State Department said today in a statement.
Russian optimism on the truce contrasts with remarks yesterday by Andrei Purgin, deputy premier of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. He criticized the pact and a plan to create a no-fire zone between the rebels and the army, as well as reiterating the separatists’ goal of independence.
“There is no truce, buffer zones are non-existent,” he said via Russian state-run news service RIA Novosti. “Such casualties make any political union with Ukraine impossible.”
Poroshenko said last week that shelling must stop for 24 hours for the government to pull its troops back and create a 30-kilometer (19-mile) buffer zone. The government in Kiev said yesterday marked the second occasion since Oct. 5 that a halt in shelling by the military went unreciprocated.