Minsk summit focuses on violence in Ukraine's East

Feb 11, 2015, 3:38 PM EST
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (AFP / Kirill Kudryavtsev)
AFP / Kirill Kudryavtsev

Leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia convened Wednesday in Minsk, Belarus to discuss possible solutions to the ongoing violent insurgency in Eastern Ukraine. Reuters reports that the talks come in the thick of heavy fighting in the city of Debaltseve, between Ukrainian national troops and partisan separatists largely believed to be backed by Moscow. In the past day alone, 19 Ukrainian national soldiers were reportedly killed in the contested city, in addition to 17 civilians. Increased violence and the advance of rebels onto Ukrainian-held areas is widely believed to give Russian President Vladimir Putin the upper hand over Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. 

Though the general mood during the ongoing talks is reportedly tense, the Ukrainian and Russian presidents did shake hands to greet each other. The BBC reports that Ukraine will likely focus on restoring the original demarcations of the September ceasefire, whereas Russia will try to secure concessions based on the gains rebel fighters have made since. Russia is also expected to push for linguistic and cultural protections for Ukraine's far east, which Putin refers to as "New Russia." 

While Russia has consistently denied officially backing the rebels in the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts, journalists and international military officials have concluded otherwise, Radio Free Europe reports. The United States is currently considering its options regarding providing military aid to Ukrainian nationals. This will likely depend on the outcome of today's Minsk summit, which is reportedly drawing to a close. The outcome is still unclear, but multiple observers commented that the leaders looked pleased.