Ukraine leader accuses Russia as Western powers press truce
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday accused Russia of sending major military backup to pro-Moscow rebels, as he met with the French and German leaders on the recent resurgence of violence.
Heading to Berlin, Poroshenko charged that Moscow this week had sent large shipments of military aid to the east.
"Just this week three big convoys crossed our border towards Lugansk, Donetsk and Debaltseve," Poroshenko told reporters, referring to rebel-controlled territory.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, who have invested sizeable political capital in resolving Ukraine's 16-month pro-Russian uprising and bringing back peace to the EU's turbulent eastern front, urged both sides to respect a tattered peace plan.
"Everything must be done so the ceasefire can become a reality," Merkel said ahead of a working dinner.
Neither Merkel nor Hollande addressed Poroshenko's fresh accusations against Moscow.
Monday's talks marked the three leaders' first meeting since marathon peace talks in the Belarussian capital of Minsk in February brought in a truce that has since been breached by almost daily shelling on the front line.
The death toll in the 16-month-long war is now close to 6,900.
However they notably excluded Russian leader Vladimir Putin as Moscow and Kiev accused each other of reigniting the conflict.
Flanked by Merkel and Hollande, Poroshenko told a news conference that he saw "no alternative" to the Minsk agreement and insisted that all three were in agreement that the so-called Normandy format including Russia was "the basis to solve problems".
"Ukraine is doing everything to uphold its obligations" under the Minsk accord, he added.
Hollande noted that the meeting was taking place on Ukraine's Independence Day and said that the Berlin talks took place "in the interest of Ukraine's independence".
Merkel stressed that Minsk remained the only viable plan to silence the fighting in the region.
"We came together today in the interest of implementing Minsk and not to question it," she told reporters.
Earlier in Kiev, Poroshenko had indicated that all four leaders might meet in September.
- 'War for independence continuing' -
In a speech in Kiev for Independence Day celebrations, Poroshenko accused Russia of having sent a total of up to 500 tanks, 400 artillery systems and up to 950 military armoured vehicles to pro-Russian rebels.
He was apparently talking about the whole conflict, although he did not specify the time period for these deliveries.
Kiev and Western countries accuse Russia of supplying arms to the rebels and deploying regular troops in the separatist east, which Moscow denies.
Poroshenko said that 50,000 Russian soldiers are deployed on the border with Ukraine and 9,000 Russian servicemen are among the 40,000 fighters of the separatist force.
Despite Western sanctions that "deal Russia's economy a hard blow," Moscow "has still not given up the idea of a direct intervention or a rebel assault in the country's interior," Poroshenko said.
"The war for independence is still continuing and we can only claim victory by combining our defensive efforts, diplomatic talent, political responsibility and steely endurance," Poroshenko said.
He was speaking as troops marched through Kiev in a parade to celebrate 24 years since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union.
"We must spend our 25th year of independence as if we are skating on fragile ice. The smallest careless step could be fatal," Poroshenko said.
The parade along Kiev's main street did not include heavy military hardware as it did last year.
Soldiers who had fought in the east marched through Kiev, cheered by Ukrainians, most of them wearing their national dress of embroidered shirts.
In Donetsk, the rebels' de facto capital, some 300 people gathered in the city centre to condemn what they called "Dependence Day", carrying placards saying "No to Fascism!", "Poroshenko, you have blood on your hands" and "We are against the war," an AFP journalist saw.
© 2015 AFP