Published time: August 26, 2014 14:02
Edited time: August 26, 2014 15:39
Ukraine’s leader, Petro Poroshenko, said he’s ready to discuss various solutions to the Ukrainian crisis, adding that the future of Europe depends on the outcome of the talks between the Eurasian Customs Union, EU and Kiev in the Belarusian capital.
Putin and Poroshenko greeted each other with a handshake as they met in the Belarusian capital at the start of talks on the Ukrainian crisis. The presidents of Russia and Ukraine may also hold bilateral talks on the issue later in the day.
The negotiations in Minsk are part of a Eurasian Customs Union (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) summit, which also includes the Ukrainian president and representatives of the European Commission.
Poroshenko stressed the importance of Tuesday’s meeting, saying that “the fate of the world and Europe” is being decided in the Belarusian capital.
“The purpose of my visit to Minsk is to stop the bloodshed and to start the process of finding a political compromise,” the Ukrainian president said.
“The interests of the people of Donbass should and will be taken into account” in this solution, he added.
In an opening statement, Poroshenko also expressed confidence that none of the participants of the talks question the independence of the Ukrainian state and the right of its people to determine their present and future.
He called Ukraine “a responsible member of the international community,” saying that it demands respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“The Ukrainian people have made their choice in favor of a unitary democratic European state,” Poroshenko said.
Vladimir Putin said that he’s absolutely confident that the Ukrainian crisis “can’t be resolved by further escalation of the military scenario, without considering the best interests of the southeastern regions of the country, without a peace dialogue with their representatives.”
Russia’s president stressed that Moscow is interested in not only maintaining its cooperation with Ukraine, but even expanding it.
However, Putin expressed doubt that the two countries would be able to achieve this goal if Kiev’s Association Agreement with the European Union comes into force.
Moscow will be forced to implement countermeasures if this happens, the Russian president said.
“We do not want to discriminate against anybody,” he said. “We are simply going to implement a standard trade regime regarding Ukraine – the same that is used in relations between Russia and the EU.”
Switching over to EU trading standards and nixing duty-free trade with Russia would cost Ukraine €165 billion over the next 10 years, Putin warned.
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested that a joint document should be adopted as a result of the talks between the Eurasian Customs Union, Ukraine and the EU representatives.
“I am confident that nobody at this table wants to get benefits from the current situation. Today, there are no intermediaries, no lobbyists and adventurers here. It’s only people who are really interested in resolving the situation,”said Lukashenko, the leader of the host nation.
For his part, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev urged the Customs Union to provide joint humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
“A break for a truce is essential,” Nazarbayev said, adding that a ceasefire should be announced in Ukraine in order “for the children and women affected by the conflict to get help.”
Ukraine has been engulfed in a state of civil war since April, when Kiev’s military began its crackdown on the southeast of the country.
The people in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions refused to recognize the new coup-imposed authorities and demanded federalization of the country.
According to the United Nations’ estimates released Tuesday, over 2,249 people have so far been killed and over 6,033 wounded in the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 190,000, with another 207,000 finding refuge in Russia, the UN said.