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The EU will not send armed peacekeepers to Eastern Ukraine

The EU will not send armed peacekeepers to Eastern Ukraine even though it is worried about ceasefire violations there. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko had said the EU or the UN should deploy peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine. But, speaking after an EU-Ukraine summit in Kiev on Monday, European Council President Donald Tusk ruled out sending troops. “We can only talk about a civilian mission, not military,” Tusk told a news conference in the Ukraine capital.

Pro-Russian rebels have been bombarding a village near the city of Mariupol. On Sunday tank and mortar rounds pounded the village – Shyrokyne – near government-held Mariupol, a vital port city.

Tusk told newsmen the EU would send a civilian “assessment” mission to Kiev, to explore ways to further boost security assistance for Ukraine.

The heavily armed rebels have been fighting government forces for a year in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The West accuses Russia of arming the rebels and sending in regular soldiers. Moscow denies that, insisting that any Russians on the rebel side are volunteers.

The summit was the 17th between the two sides but the first taking place under the new EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. It was also the first summit since the conflict in Donbass  erupted.

Tusk said, “The discussion regarding the crisis in Ukraine took a lot of our time and allowed us to exchange views on the situation on the ground and what needs to be done. “We agreed that the full implementation of the Minsk agreements remains the best chance to move towards a political solution. We continue to monitor the ceasefire closely.

“While the level of violence has decreased since the February agreement, ceasefire violations continue on a daily basis and the OSCE is still not able to verify the withdrawal of heavy weaponry. On top of that, we are really concerned about information we are receiving that weapons are still entering into eastern Ukraine.”

Tusk continued, “Our diplomatic efforts will continue. We expect the Russian Federation to take its responsibility for fulfilling its obligations, this includes withdrawing Russian armed forces and equipment. It is worth recalling that our sanctions and restrictive measures are linked to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.”

“We know the expectations of the Ukrainian side on this issue. It will not be easy, but we will look into it. We will send as soon as possible a civilian assessment mission

Turning  to ongoing efforts to implement wide ranging internal reforms in Ukraine, the Polish official said, “It is only for the Ukrainian nation and its Government and Parliament to do the hard work of reforming Ukraine. To make Ukraine a more prosperous, a more just, a more fair country.”

The two sides also discussed preparations for the Eastern Partnership Riga Summit next month which tusk described as an “important” opportunity to “se out our priorities for the coming years.” 

By Martin Banks