Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the main pro-Russian rebel leader said they would both order ceasefires on Friday, provided that an agreement is signed on a new peace plan to end the five month war in Ukraine’s east.
Talks are due to resume in the Belarussian capital Minsk. On Wednesday, following a string of aggressive statements in previous days, Vladimir Putin put forward a seven-point peace plan, which would end the fighting in Ukraine’s east while leaving rebels in control of territory.
Poroshenko expressed “cautious optimism” about the Minsk talks but given the rebels have advanced rapidly across eastern Ukraine in the past week, backed by what Kiev and NATO say is the support of thousands of Russian troops with artillery and tanks, the balance of interests in calling hostilities off has shifted.
Regardless of any truce, the West is preparing more sanctions against Russia. Existing measures are already hurting its economy, with the rouble plumbing record lows, but that has not prompted Putin to back off.
Here too there are mixed messages. The White House said key NATO leaders had agreed at their summit in Wales that Russia should face further sanctions, without giving any details. French President Francois Hollande, who suspended delivery of a helicopter carrier to Russia earlier this week, said further sanctions depended on events in Ukraine in the coming hours.