Escalating unrest in Ukraine prompts emergency meetings

By JC Finley  |  Jan. 26, 2015 at 8:39 AM
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KIEV, Ukraine, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he is concerned that Russian-backed militants intend to withdraw from the internationally recognized Minsk agreements as the security situation in the east continues to deteriorate.

Eastern Ukraine has been embroiled in conflict for nearly a year following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula. Despite all parties signing the Minsk Protocol in September 2014 to de-escalate the crisis through the institution of an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of illegal armed groups, fighting continues.

"We are concerned about the terrorists' announced withdrawal from the internationally recognized Minsk agreements and their position on the implementation of the peace plan, de-escalation of the conflict, border closure, the release of illegally held persons, heavy weaponry pullout and cease-fire," Poroshenko told the National Security and Defense Council on Sunday.

The president said that the escalation warrants additional emergency measures. An emergency session of the European Union's Council of Foreign Ministers on Monday "will coordinate our further joint actions on the enhancement of Ukraine's security and the increase of pressure on Russia," Poroshenko said.

NATO announced that an extraordinary ambassadorial meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission would be convened Monday at its headquarters in Brussels and the OSCE said it would hold a meeting at its office in Vienna "in light of the rapid deterioration of the situation in eastern Ukraine."

The announced withdrawal and emergency sessions follow a deadly attack on Saturday by Russia-backed separatists on civilian neighborhoods in Mariupol that left 30 people dead and 95 wounded. Ukraine declared Sunday a day of mourning. Seven Ukrainian soldiers were also killed over a 24-hour period, the military reported Monday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a warning to Russia following the assault on the strategic port city of Mariupol. "We call on Russia to end its support for separatists immediately, close the international border with Ukraine, and withdraw all weapons, fighters and financial backing. Otherwise, U.S. and international pressure on Russia and its proxies will only increase."

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