GERMANY, FRANCE BEING LED INTO ‘TRAP’ IN RUSSIA PEACE TALKS, UKRAINE SAYS

Washington Times on February 5, 2015, reported that Ukraine’s prime minister warned that the leaders of France and Germany were being led into a diplomatic “trap” as they headed to Moscow to push a peace plan for eastern Ukraine, as the Obama administration continued to struggle with the question of whether to provide U.S. weapons to aid the Ukrainian military’s fight against Russia-backed separatists. Excerpts below:

Secretary of State John F. Kerry was not involved in plans for the Moscow visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, but said he supported their effort. The trip and the peace offering appeared designed to delay a U.S. decision to give Ukraine weapons, which many in Europe fear could spark a broader confrontation with Russia.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top commander, said Moscow continues to provide heavy weapons, air defenses and Russian troops to support separatists in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. and Ukrainian officials blame Russia for the cease-fire’s demise. They say Moscow-backed forces have violated the agreement repeatedly by pushing deeper into eastern Ukraine with the goal of eventually establishing a land bridge to Russia’s mainland to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine last year.

With prospects for such a development looming, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk expressed wariness Thursday about a Franco-German negotiation with Moscow.

“Look, we have the deal, or we had a deal, in Minsk and there are fingerprints of President Putin on this deal,” he said. “So the thing is, to have a new deal, [while] not executing the previous one, seems to me being a trap.”

Mr. Yatsenyuk, who made the comments at a press conference with Mr. Kerry, said he does “support concerted actions of France, Germany, EU and the [U.S.] in resolving this conflict and in stopping Russian aggression,” but the goal should be for “Russia to implement and execute what was agreed, signed and authorized” under the cease-fire.”

He also said Ukraine will not consider any peace plan that casts doubt on the nation’s territorial integrity, an assertion that could complicate whatever proposal Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Hollande take to Moscow.

Mr. Yatsenyuk said U.S. military hardware may be needed “not for the offensive operation,” but for “the defensive operation.”

“God knows what is the ultimate goal of Russia and President Putin,” he said. “Russian aggression is a threat to the global order, to the European security, and is a threat to NATO member states.”

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