BRUSSELS, June 27. /ITAR-TASS/. European Union leaders who gathered for a summit in Brussels on Friday said in a joint statement that specific steps should be taken to de-escalate the Ukrainian conflict by Monday.
The measures mentioned by the EU leaders include the release of hostages, return of border checkpoints to Ukrainian authorities and start of talks in Ukraine’s embattled Southeast by June 30.
“The European Council expects that by Monday, June 30, the following steps will have been taken: agreement on a verification mechanism, monitored by the OSCE, for the ceasefire and for the effective control of the border; return to the Ukrainian authorities of the three border checkpoints [Izvarino, Dolzhanskiy, Krasnopartizansk],” the statement said.
The OSCE stands for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
It said the steps also include “release of hostages including all of the OSCE observers and launch of substantial negotiations on the implementation of [Ukrainian] President [Petro] Poroshenko's peace plan.”
“The European Council expresses its support to the peace plan announced last week by President Poroshenko,” it says.
“It takes note of the Russian President's declaration of support in principle of the peace plan and the Federation Council's decision to revoke the authorization to use Russian forces to intervene militarily in Ukraine,” it says.
Poroshenko, who won the May 25 early presidential election in Ukraine and took office on June 7, on June 20 announced a ceasefire in Ukraine’s embattled Southeast until June 27. He also presented a peace plan to settle the situation in the Southeast during his first working trip to the eastern Donetsk Region. Militias in the Southeast agreed to the truce despite numerous reports that the ceasefire had been violated.
On Friday, Poroshenko pledged to make a decision on extending the ceasefire by 72 hours later in the day upon return from Brussels.
“I need to return and hold consultations with the military and government. The ceasefire will be in force until evening, and the decision will be made by that time,” Poroshenko said.
Kiev’s punitive operation against federalization supporters in Ukraine’s Southeast involving armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation has killed hundreds of people, including civilians, left buildings destroyed and damaged and forced tens of thousands to cross the border from Ukraine to Russia.
The Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, considered on June 25 Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request to revoke the right the house had given him in March to use Russia’s armed forces in Ukraine and overwhelmingly supported it.
The right to use Russia’s armed forces in Ukraine given on March 1 authorized Putin to send troops to the territory of conflict-gripped Ukraine “until the public and political situation normalizes in the country.”
The authorization gave Moscow an opportunity to protect, should need arise, Russian speakers in the neighboring country, which was in turmoil after a coup occurred there in February and new people were brought to power amid riots and ultranationalist rhetoric.
Putin never used the permission.
The final statement of the European leaders after Friday’s summit also said that the European Council “regrets that the ceasefire” in Ukraine’s Southeast “has not led to the full cessation of military hostilities.”
“Therefore, it calls upon all parties to genuinely commit to the implementation of the peace plan and to cement the cessation of the military activities. It urges the Russian Federation to actively use its influence over the illegally armed groups and to stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border.”
The statement said it will help “achieve rapid and tangible results in de-escalation” and added that “the European Council supports the OSCE monitoring the implementation of the peace plan as well as its role in supporting the ceasefire and the establishment of effective border controls.”
Russia has repeatedly dismissed Western claims that it could in any way be involved in protests in the Southeast of Ukraine, which started after Crimea refused to recognize the authorities propelled to power by the February coup and reunified with Russia in mid-March after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.
The EU summit statement also said that “the Council will assess the situation and, should it be required, adopt necessary decisions. The European Council underlines its commitment to reconvene at any time for further significant restrictive measures.”
A European source explained to ITAR-TASS that no measures will be taken automatically after June 30, the deadline for implementation of steps mentioned by the EU leaders.
In case of a lack of progress in measures to de-escalate the Ukrainian conflict, an extraordinary meeting of top diplomats or an EU summit may be convened to assess the situation and possible sanctions.
The source confirmed that a package of possible sectoral punitive measures against Russia was drafted by the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, and the European External Action Service in May.
Some Russian officials and companies have been subjected to sanctions by Western nations, including visa bans and asset freezes, following Crimea’s incorporation by Russia in March.
The West led by the United States has repeatedly threatened Russia with further penalties, including economic ones, for its position on Ukraine (incorporation of Crimea and what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests of federalization supporters in Ukraine’s Southeast).
Russia has rejected the threats of broader sanctions, saying the language of punitive measures is counterproductive and will have a boomerang effect on Western countries.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the authorities brought to power by the February coup in Ukraine.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11. They held a referendum on March 16, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Putin signed the reunification deals March 18.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when it was gifted to Ukraine by Soviet Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev.