BERLIN, December 31. /TASS/. The European Union seeks “to establish a system of security in Europe jointly with Russia” that will not be directed against the Russian Federation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a New Year address recorded for the German television.
Merkel also said “Europe will not allow Russia to disregard international law in the context of the Ukrainian crisis.”
Ukraine has been in deep crisis since the end of last year, when then-President Viktor Yanukovych suspended the signing of an Association Agreement with the European Union to study the deal more thoroughly. The move triggered mass riots that eventually led to a coup in February 2014.
The coup that brought chaos to Ukraine prompted the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with a special status to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of coup-imposed authorities, hold a referendum and secede from Ukraine to reunify with Russia in mid-March after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.
After that, mass protests erupted in Ukraine’s south-east, where local residents, apparently inspired by Crimea's example, did not recognize the coup-imposed authorities either, formed militias and started fighting for their rights.
The positions of Russia and Western nations on the Ukrainian developments differ drastically. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the intra-Ukrainian crisis, but the West accuses Moscow of participation in clashes in Ukraine’s war-torn south-east and has subjected Russia to sanctions.
Russian officials and companies came under the first batch of Western sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Russia incorporated Crimea in mid-March after a coup rocked Ukraine in February.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
The West announced new, sectoral, restrictions against Russia in late July, in particular, for what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests in Ukraine’s south-east.
In response, Russia imposed on August 6 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Norway.
Kiev’s military operation designed to regain control over the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions in Ukraine’s southeast on the border with Russia, which call themselves the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, has left thousands of people dead, brought destruction and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.
Businessman and politician Petro Poroshenko won the May 25 early presidential election in Ukraine.
The parties to the intra-Ukrainian conflict agreed on a ceasefire during talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on September 5 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.
Numerous violations of the ceasefire, which took effect the same day, have been reported since.
A memorandum was adopted on September 19 in Minsk by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE. The document outlined the parameters for the implementation of commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine laid down in the Minsk Protocol of September 5.
The nine-point memorandum in particular envisioned a ban on the use of all armaments and withdrawal of weapons with the calibers of over 100 millimeters to a distance of 15 kilometers from the contact line from each side. The OSCE was tasked with controlling the implementation of memorandum provisions.
A "day of silence" in eastern Ukraine began at 09:00am local time on December 9. It is seen as another attempt by both parties to the intra-Ukrainian conflict to put an end to hostilities.