Merkel takes Ukraine plan to Obama

Feb 09, 2015, 1:35 AM EST
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the 51st Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 7, 2015. The Ukraine conflict, Islamic State group jihadists and the wider 'collapse of the global order' occupy the world's security community at the three-day annual meeting.
AFP/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Washington for talks with President Barack Obama on Monday amid reports of a rift over Ukraine. As well as discussing a way forward in Ukraine, writes the BBC, the pair are likely to discuss a range of other issues including counter-terrorism and trade.

As the crisis in Ukraine intensifies, America says it will stand with Europe but recent talks exposed divisions. Merkel has ruled out sending weapons to help Ukraine's military. The Ukrainian government is locked in a conflict with Russian-backed rebels which has claimed more than 5,300 lives and driven 1.5 million people from their homes.

There is pressure on President Obama to adopt a tougher stance, with some officials in Washington, as well as senior Republicans such as Senator John McCain, arguing that some form of military support is necessary, the BBC reports. However, the German chancellor is said to be holding out hope for a diplomatic solution.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, windows were shattered and homes shaken in Donetsk after a huge blast rocked the vicinity of a city chemical plant, RT reports. A Ukrainian MP praised pro-Kiev forces for hitting a target – but said they “don’t know what they hit.”

The powerful explosion took place at 10:50pm local time on Sunday. Local militia reported that a military chemical plant DKZHI was the target of Kiev’s artillery shelling. Witnesses saw the sky lit up by the explosion, some nearby living residents had their windows broken by the blast’s shockwave and many others felt the ground shake, RIA Novosti reported.

Even those living in nearby towns said they felt the tremor.

“The epicenter of the blast was near DKZHI,” co-chairman of the anti-Kiev People’s Front Konstantin Dolgov said on his Facebook page. The factory is known for producing chemical products used for industrial explosives, ammunition and equipment artillery bombs. This is not the first time the plant has been the target of a Kiev attack. It was also hit with artillery rockets in September and November.

The militia forces could not immediately confirm if there were casualties, including civilian. “Accurate data about what happened will be available by morning,” a militia spokesperson told TASS. “The explosion occurred in the industrial zone in Donetsk’s Kuibyshevsky District. It was most likely the hit of an artillery shell.”