Kiev: Russia plans to eliminate Ukraine as an independent state and could spark a new offensive in the east to achieve that aim, Ukraine’s Prime Minister has said.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk yesterday said Russia was uninterested in de-escalating Ukraine’s conflict with separatist forces, despite its commitment to maintain a peace deal made in February.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of being directly involved in the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine which has left over 6,000 dead in the last year. Moscow denies that charge. The warring sides are poised in a delicate truce that is largely holding, despite sporadic skirmishes along the 450-kilometer front line.
The cease-fire agreement reached in February requires both Ukraine government and rebel forces to pull back their heavy weapons. It also envisions Ukraine granting its rebellious eastern territories some measure of self-rule.
Yatsenyuk told the AP in an English-language interview that the agreement was a bad but necessary settlement that could halt new rebel advances.
“This is a political solution. A diplomatically political solution, which has to be underpinned by the military capabilities of the Ukrainian army,” he said. “The idea is just to deter the Russian terrorists, not to allow them to move further.”
The prime minister said the West must stay united in helping Ukraine repel Russian aggression and that achieving this would be the “joint success of the entire free world.”
The European Union and the United States have slapped sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, a move that has hurt the Russian economy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “main focus today is on the EU,” Yatsenyuk said. “To split the unity among the EU member states, to lift sanctions. And to split the unity among the United States of America and the European Union.”
The Ukrainian government’s detractors have sought to paint it as crippled by corruption and divisions within its national leadership and weighed down by a plummeting economy. Ukraine has begun addressing shortcomings in all those areas, Yatsenyuk said.
On Wednesday, police officers barged into a televised government meeting to detain two top officials on suspicion of extorting bribes. Yatsenyuk indicated that would set the pace for his government’s looming fight against graft.
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