EU reassures Ukraine despite overtures to Russia

24th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Tuesday the European Union had assured him it would keep its focus on Kiev despite efforts by some of the bloc's members to enlist Russia in a coalition against the Islamic State.

The pro-Western leader of the former Soviet country said European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker had told him by phone "that for the European Union, the Ukrainian issue invariably remains a priority".

Kiev is concerned by France's attempts to enlist Russia -- viewed by Ukraine's leadership as an aggressor responsible for a 19-month separatist revolt in the east -- into a broader anti-jihadist coalition that also includes the United States.

Poroshenko's main worry is that Brussels will soften its Ukrainian-linked sanctions against Moscow in return for Russian President Vladimir Putin's support.

Such a decision would come with fighting in rebel-run regions escalating in recent weeks -- a reversal some analysts blame on Putin's decision to ramp up the Ukrainian war just as the world's attention focuses on the consequences of the Paris attacks.

Poroshenko said Juncker shared Kiev's "concern for the rise in the number of (ceasefire violations) staged by the rebels".

Analysts remain split about whether the uptick in violence is linked to Putin or some insurgency commanders' bid to draw back Moscow's attention to their own plight.

Russia denies orchestrating or supporting the eastern Ukrainian revolt as punishment for Kiev's decision to oust a Moscow-backed president last year.

One of Europe's deadliest conflicts since the Balkans wars of the 1990s has claimed the lives of more than 8,000 people, the majority of them civilians.

© 2015 AFP

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