Pro-Russia separatists at talks with representatives from Moscow and the OSCE in Minsk said they would be prepared to stay part of Ukraine if they were granted “special status”, which is unlikely to be acceptable to Kiev.
The talks will continue later in the week and come as the Ukrainian military faced a run of reverses on the battlefield which Kiev says have been engineered by the intervention of at least 1,600 Russian combat troops.
In the latest in a string of setbacks, Ukraine’s military said it had pulled back from defending a vital airport near the city of Luhansk, where troops had been battling a Russian tank battalion. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of “direct and undisguised aggression” which he said had radically changed the battlefield balance. Moscow denies it is involved.
All that means the United States and EU must surely toughen their sanctions on Russia although several EU countries heavily dependent on Russian gas, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, are opposed to new measures, which require unanimous agreement.
We got a nice break from our Brussels sources yesterday, revealing that talks about a new round of sanctions include the option of banning Europeans from buying new Russian government bonds.