German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko smile during a press conference following their meeting in Kiev on August 23, 2014. Merkel said she could not rule out new sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, following talks with Poroshenko. Merkel arrived in Kiev on August 23 for crisis talks with Ukraine's pro-Western leaders, as a controversial aid convoy from Moscow began crossing back from the war-torn east of the country to Russia. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY
German Chancellor Angela Merker offered Ukraine 500 million euros in help to rebuild destruction from a Russian-backed war in Ukraine's east, while President Petro Poroshenko promised her to fulfill his pledge decentralize political power in the nation and ensure language and cultural rights of Russian-speakers.
The hostilities between Ukraine and Russia in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which began shortly after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, have killed more than 2,000 people and wounded more than 5,000 people. It has also forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in Ukraine's two densely populated oblasts, home to more than six million people.
Poroshenko thanked Merkel, who visited Kyiv for the first time since 2008, ahead of the country’s Aug. 24 Independence Day, and important meeting of Ukraine’s president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Aug. 26 in Minsk.
“We all remember the Marshall Plan for post-war Europe. Today I may say this is a launch of Merkel plan for renewal of Donbas infrastructure,” Poroshenko said at the joint press conference.
He added that German financing will be delivered after the launch of special fund at donor conference in September. German hospitals will also treat 20 Ukrainian servicemen with gravest wounds from war.
Merkel at the same time stressed Ukraine has to secure rights of Russian-speaking residents, who have to “feel belonging to Ukraine.” Their needs would be protected after efficient decentralization, Merkel added.
She, however, did not support federalization of Ukraine, the idea promoted by Russia and supported by German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, according to an interview to Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "In Ukraine decentralization is the same which Germany understands as federalization,” she said.
Merkel also reaffirmed that Crimea belongs to Ukraine, despite her Gabriel's remarks that Ukraine has to forget about the Russian-occupied peninsula.
“It (annexation) was in violation to territorial integrity of Europe and if we recognize this principle than this may happen all over Europe… So it’s important to recognize the territorial integrity (of the borders established) after the Second World War,” she said.
Being asked about probability of further sanctions against Russia, whose military convoy with allegedly humanitarian aid for residents of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts entered Ukraine on Aug. 22 without the country’s permission, Merkel said it would be considered if talks in Minsk fail. But she hoped it won’t happen.
“We want to move forward at least one step,” she said about outcome of the high meeting, where -- apart from Ukrainian and Russian leaders -- will also be present the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and top officials of the European Union.
“We will be jointly doing all possible along with Ukrainian president and government to reach a diplomatic resolution of this drama,” Merkel said about peace talks. “I’m sure that it won’t be military decision of this problem,” she added.
Poroshenko said he also wanted to establish peace on the east “but not in expense of its (Ukrainian) sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.”
“Ukraine is ready and able to secure peaceful settlement. Those who are hampering us (with this) are the foreign mercenaries,” he said. “Bring armed people back from our territory please and peace will be installed in Ukraine very soon.”
Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Grytsenko can be reached at email@example.com