Ukraine sees Europe embracing harder line on Russia – WSJ

Ahead of talks on Ukraine and a summit of European leaders, Ukrainian officials said this week they believe there is increasing support in Europe for a harder line approach to Russia, Julian E. Barnes wrote in a WSJ blog.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Pavlo Klimkin, the Ukrainian foreign minister, said frustration with Russian actions in Syria has helped convince European leaders that Moscow has been following similar approaches in Ukraine and Syria, reads the article.

”What the Russians have been doing, they treat insecurity as a commodity on a stock exchange, creating more insecurity here and more insecurity there,” Klimkin said.

”They are not fixing any problems but creating more problems and ready to use these problems as leverage.”

After a Normandy Four meeting which will be held on Wednesday, the first such meeting of the leaders of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia in a year, Normandy meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will travel to Brussels for a summit of EU leaders. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will join them.

While once, officials expected a discussion about easing Ukraine-related sanctions, the summit`s agenda is likely to focus on toughening the bloc`s approach to Moscow, and possibly moving forward on Syria-related sanctions.

”Syria and Ukraine are two separate tracks, they don`t directly overlap,” Klimkin said. ”But in the sense of understanding the whole picture of course there is a kind of cross influence.”

Mr. Klimkin has said the Ukrainian government is willing to move forward with local elections, but needs security improvements in the Donbas, eastern part of the country, under the control of Russian-backed separatists, as well as increased access to the OSCE monitors to observe ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. That`s the same sticking point that has prevented the elections happening for the last year.

”Let`s stop shelling, let`s pull back heavy weaponry, let`s give the OSCE missions the possibility for the access the whole territory of Donbas,” he said. ”The Russian regular troops should be out and the the OSCE should be in.”

Russia keeps denying they have forces in eastern Ukraine and said they have no direct control of the separatist forces. Ukraine and western countries dispute those contentions.

Russian officials have demanded promises on political reforms, while Ukrainian officials, backed by American diplomats, have said that a real ceasefire must come first. Klimkin said a semblance of normal life returning to Donbas would give the Ukrainian government room to begin working on the political elements of the Minsk peace agreement.

”It would give us the possibility to talk about further steps on the political track, especially elections,” he said.

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