sábado, 7 de febrero de 2015

Diarios de la mañana


Mientras ponés la pava para el mate te aviso que la mano en Europa viene dinámica esta mañanita. Parece  que los principales “líderes” europeos comienzan a despertarse y a sospechar que los rusos tienen las bolas por el piso con el jueguito de “yo te quiero pero viste cómo son los yanquis”. La cuestión es que, superados sendos ataques iniciales de diarrea, Merkel y Hollande salieron disparados para Ucrania primero y Rusia después, con la idea de “vamo a charlá un yatito”. No es que tengan el menor plan, claro (esta no es gente sospechable de tener ideas), pero parece que a la vista de los misiles recortando el horizonte los chicos ponen voluntad. La cuestión es que la cosa está dinámica, fluctuante. Una prueba de ello es la disparatada serie de contradicciones de los diarios de Occidente. Acá van siete noticias de diarios españoles, británicos y estadounidenses. Como siempre, es difícil saber qué es verdad y qué no. En fin, acá van:


Diario El País, España:

Título: Europa busca a la desesperada frenar la ofensiva rusa en Ucrania

Subtítulo: La canciller Merkel y el presidente Hollande se reúnen con su homólogo ruso durante cinco horas y acuerdan proseguir la negociación mañana por teléfono

Texto: Europa apura la vía diplomática en un intento desesperado por evitar una guerra abierta en Ucrania. Pese a carecer de un plan de paz concreto, la canciller alemana, Angela Merkel, y el presidente francés, François Hollande, se trasladaron este viernes al Kremlin para tratar de convencer al líder ruso, Vladímir Putin, de que dé un paso atrás en el país vecino. Es la última baza que le queda a la diplomacia europea para tratar de impedir lo que considera una escalada irreversible en el conflicto: el envío de armas al Ejército de Kiev que sopesa Estados Unidos.

Tras cinco horas de discusiones Merkel y Hollande abandonaron Moscú con el compromiso de mantener el domingo una conversación telefónica a cuatro bandas con Putin y el presidente ucranio, Petró Poroshenko. Según un portavoz del Kremlin, se trabaja en un texto para un plan de paz que toma como base los acuerdos de Minsk. Las conversaciones fueron “constructivas y sustanciales”, según los portavoces de los presidentes francés y ruso. Los tres mandatarios habían accedido a la sala donde se celebró la reunión con frialdad y sin estrecharse las manos ante los fotógrafos.

Merkel y Hollande presentaron a Putin una propuesta que, según los detalles que han trascendido, se basa en los acuerdos de alto el fuego firmados en Minsk en septiembre pasado, pero también incluye nuevos aspectos. Particularmente, se propondría el despliegue de cascos azules en el este de Ucrania, y se abriría la puerta a reconocer a los rebeldes algunos de los territorios ganados durante su última ofensiva. A cambio, los separatistas deberían cesar su ataque, lo que significaría dejar inconclusa la operación militar en la estratégica zona de Debáltsevo, donde miles de soldados ucranios se encuentran prácticamente rodeados por los prorrusos.

Varias fuentes diplomáticas en Bruselas confirman ese plan de extender las fronteras correspondientes a la zona autónoma del este, aunque alertan de la dificultad de que Kiev acepte una nueva pérdida de territorio bajo su control. Hay otra carta que tratan de jugar los diplomáticos europeos y que también puede resultar una píldora amarga para los ucranios: la conveniencia de que Kiev renuncie —al menos por el momento— a su futura integración en la OTAN, algo que Rusia consideraría una auténtica provocación y una amenaza a sus fronteras.

Las respuestas de unos y otros son hasta ahora una incógnita. Los líderes de Alemania y Francia estuvieron el jueves en Kiev, donde presentaron sus propuestas al presidente Petró Poroshenko, pero no se dieron detalles de las conversaciones ni de la respuesta ucrania. Poroshenko reiteró recientemente ser contrario al despliegue de soldados de la ONU, porque eso congelaría el conflicto y podría convertir la zona rebelde, que según los acuerdos de Minskdebe gozar de cierta autonomía, en una región como la del Transdniéster, oficialmente dependiente de Moldavia, pero con control de Moscú. El Kremlin no tiene aparentemente reparos en que cascos azules se interpongan entre las fuerzas enfrentadas, pero no está claro que permita su presencia en la frontera que separa a Rusia de las regiones ucranias rebeldes.

El cese del apoyo del Kremlin a los separatistas es improbable: Putin ha dicho en repetidas ocasiones que no permitirá que Kiev aplaste a los prorrusos del este de Ucrania. A esa defensa se une el hecho de que los rebeldes están ganando terreno, lo que los coloca en una posición de fuerza. La única razón por la que Moscú podría desear un alivio de la tensión con Occidente sería la mejora de la difícil situación económica que vive su país, agravada por las sanciones europeas y estadounidenses.

Para la UE, la principal preocupación es de otra índole. Las más que probables intenciones que ha expresado Estados Unidos de armar al Ejército de Kiev si Putin continúa asistiendo a los rebeldes han encendido todas las alarmas en Bruselas. Ese miedo a que Washington actúe por su cuenta quedó afianzado por el mensaje que el vicepresidente estadounidense, Joe Biden, lanzó este viernes en su visita a la capital europea. En una muestra de escepticismo ante el intento de mediación europea, Biden exclamó: “Rusia está subiendo la tensión del conflicto, mandando mercenarios y tanques a Ucrania. Putin ignora cualquier acuerdo que haya firmado su país, incluido el de Minsk. Tenemos que estar del lado de Ucrania. Rusia no puede redibujar las fronteras de Europa y eso es exactamente lo que está haciendo”.

Mientras Merkel y Hollande se reunían en Rusia con Putin, los responsables de Defensa alemán y francés exponían en Múnich ese temor europeo a que el conflicto alcance un punto de no retorno y desgranaban sus recetas para evitar que se desboque aún más. La ministra alemana Ursula von der Leyen defendió la política de sanciones económicas al Kremlin emprendida hasta ahora, y rechazó de plano el envío de armas a Kiev.

“¿Estamos seguros de que la situación del pueblo mejoraría si les diéramos armas? ¿Y de que Ucrania podría vencer a la maquinaria militar rusa? ¿Y no sería este un buen pretexto para que Moscú interviniera abiertamente en el conflicto?”, se preguntó enfática Von der Leyen en la inauguración de la Conferencia de Seguridad de Múnich.

Berlín rechaza decisiones que puedan alimentar el victimismo ruso y cuyas consecuencias se desconocen. “Ya hay demasiadas armas en la región”, zanjó Von der Leyen. La política actual, sostiene Alemania, está surtiendo sus efectos. “Nunca Rusia había estado tan aislada. Y sufre además unas espectaculares pérdidas económicas. No solo por las sanciones, sino también por la huida de los inversores”, dijo.

Justo el día en el que Von der Leyen arremete contra la idea de armar a Ucrania, su ministerio anunció la nueva remesa de envíos de munición a las tropas kurdas que combaten al Estado Islámico en el norte de Irak. Pero para el Gobierno alemán esta aparente contradicción no es tal. No solo porque el diálogo con unos yihadistas que solo quieren sangre sea “implanteable”. También por motivos prácticos: no es lo mismo enfrentarse a los islamistas que a un gran país como Rusia, “con un potencial sin límites”.

***

Diario El Mundo, España:

Título: Cascos azules para Ucrania

Texto: En un intento a la desesperada de lograr la paz en el este de Ucrania,la canciller alemana, Angela Merkel, y el presidente francés, François Hollande, viajaron el viernes a Moscú para entrevistarse con el presidente ruso, Vladimir Putin. El objetivo es que haga a los separatistas comprometerse con una nueva protesta de paz. Por la noche los tres mandatarios se habían retirado a cenar juntos y sin hacer declaraciones tras tres horas de conversaciones a solas, a puerta cerrada, sin la compañía de ningún asesor y con la sola ayuda de los servicios de traducción.

El plan, de acuerdo con algunas filtraciones que se han producido, está basado en los acuerdos de Minsk que trajeron el alto el fuego el pasado septiembre. Pero según algunos medios, incluiría esta vez tanto el despliegue de cascos azules como el reconocimiento de la nueva línea de contacto que separa el territorio dominado ahora por los prorrusos del resto de Ucrania. Ambas novedades disgustan a Kiev, que ya ha tratado de marcar su territorio recordando que no aceptará que su integridad territorial y su soberanía se vean condicionadas por terceras partes. La presencia de cascos azules podría suponer un reconocimiento de facto del territorio secesionista, congelando un conflicto que Kiev espera dejar atrás algún día y poder integrarse en las estructuras europeas.

Una fuente diplomática declaró que del resultado de las conversaciones podía depender que las nuevas sanciones que prepara la Unión Europea contra Rusia fueran más o menos severas. El viceministro de Defensa ruso, Anatoli Antonov, podría ser incluido en la lista de individuos y entidades sujetas a sanciones de la Unión Europea, según fuentes diplomáticas citadas por Reuters. Se da la circunstancia de que Antonov participa estos días en la Conferencia de Seguridad que se celebra en Múnich y en cuya agenda Ucrania es uno de los temas principales.

De momento se sabe poco más de los nombres de las 19 personas y 9 entidades que engrosarán esta lista, que la UE amplía periódicamente desde que en marzo pasado, tras la incorporación de Crimea a Rusia, anunciara la prohibición de entrada en el territorio comunitario y la congelación de activos a personas a las que acusa de atentar contra la integridad territorial de Ucrania. Bruselas se ha dado cuenta de que sus sanciones hacen daño a Rusia pero no doblegan a Putin. Pero teme que el suministro de armas al bando ucraniano por parte de EEUU divida a la UE y sobre todo que relance el conflicto hacia una guerra total.

Las expectativas de avances eran bajas antes de empezar. Sobre todo porque los últimos avances que han logrado los rebeldes han dejado viejos los acuerdos de paz alcanzados en Minsk, que trazaban una línea del frente que los secesionistas han movido hacia el oeste en algunos puntos, robando 500 kilómetros cuadrados. Pero Europa necesita un acuerdo más que EEUU. Y está buscando vías para normalizar las relaciones con Moscú, como explicó el embajador de la Unión Europea en Rusia, Vygaudas Usackas. La atmósfera en Moscú era tensa desde el primer momento, con Merkel y Hollande partiendo directamente desde la escalerilla del avión hacia el Kremlin, sin los tradicionales agasajos a los líderes extranjeros.

Mientras tanto los rebeldes pro rusos y autoridades ucranianas acordaron el viernes la creación de un corredor humanitario para permitir la salida de civiles atrapados en la localidad de Debaltsevo,situada junto a la línea del frente y que estos días es el epicentro de los combates en el este de Ucrania. Han sido dos semanas en las que la ciudad ha sido golpeada por intensos bombardeos.

Los prorrusos siguen robando territorio a Kiev. Estos días han avanzado y ya tomaron Vuhlehirsk, un asentamiento rural 10 kilómetros al oeste. Anoche seguían intentando capturar Debaltsevo, que es de vital importancia porque une por ferrocarril sus dos bastiones principales: las ciudades de Donetsk y Lugansk.

Durante la tarde decenas de autobuses viajaban en convoy a Debaltsevo, tanto desde territorio bajo control rebelde como del Gobierno, para sacar a la gente y ponerla fuera de peligro. El secretario general de la OTAN, Jens Stoltenberg, se reunirá hoy con el ministro de Exteriores ruso, Serguéi Lavrov, el vicepresidente de EEUU, Joe Biden, y el presidente de Ucrania, Petro Poroshenko, aprovechando la Conferencia de Seguridad en Múnich.


***

Diario The Telegraph, Reino Unido:

Título: Fears of Western split over Ukraine as Germany rebuffs American threat to send weapons

Subtítulo: European ministers warn that allowing US arms to be used against separatist rebels would "pour oil onto the flames" in the Ukraine conflict

Texto: Fears of a split in Western strategy towards Ukraine grew on Friday night after Germany directly rebuffed America over its threats to send weapons to Kiev.
As Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, arrived in Moscow for 11th hour peace talks with Vladimir Putin, her ministers said that allowing US arms to be used against separatist rebels would "pour oil onto the flames".

The warning from Ursula von der Leyen, the German defence minister, followed Washington's announcement on Thursday that it might give Ukrainian government forces sophisticated defensive weapons to halt the rebels' recent rapid advance.
Elements within the Pentagon now believe that the only way to force the rebels to the negotiating table is to even the military balance.

But Mrs von der Leyen claimed that would simply give Mr Putin an excuse to arm the rebels more more heavily, or even send in the Russian army openly. "In Ukraine there are already far too many weapons," she said. "The resupply (of weapons) to the separatists is potentially unlimited.

Mrs Merkel, who is travelling with the French president, Francois Hollande, arrived in Moscow after spending Thursday in talks with the Ukrainian government in Kiev.
The two leaders' visit was ahead of a major international security conference in Munich this weekend, which will be dominated by the Ukraine crisis.
Ms Merkel, the only European leaders who has anything approaching a working relationship with Mr Putin, wants to persuade Moscow to stick to the terms of last September's Minsk ceasefire agreement.

It has been unravelling ever since as the rebels - backed by Russian tanks and heavy weaponry - have seized around 200 square miles of extra territory.
Western diplomats say the new plan is similar to the Minsk document, but offers the separatists a "high degree of autonomy" over a much larger area, reflecting their recent land grabs.

The hope is that the rebels, some of who are content to remain part of a more de-centralised Ukraine, will be tempted into downing their weapons.

But their response will in large part be dictated by the mood in the Kremlin. Though both they and Moscow deny it, the rebels' bargaining power is largely dependent on Russia's willingness to continue supplying extra military muscle.

A separate question is whether international peacekeepers might be deployed to the region. Citing European diplomats, Russia's Kommersant newspaper said on Friday that the Merkel-Hollande proposal included having such a force to police an agreed ceasefire line.

That report, though, contradicts earlier comments from European sources that deploying peacekeepers would create a "frozen conflict" zone. That would amount to a de facto recognition that the war was a genuine civil conflict, rather than a Kremlin-inspired insurgency.

On the ground in eastern Ukraine on Friday, the rebels and the Ukrainian authorities agreed to a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from heavy fighting in Debaltseve, a key railway hub between the two main rebel-controlled cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Around 1,000 residents trapped for nearly a fortnight in sub-zero temperatures without heating or running water were shuttled out in convoys of buses. Artillery duels continued, however, in the regional capital, Donetsk.

While Washington has stressed it will make no decision on sending weapons to Kiev until the latest Merkel-Hollande overtures have run their course, the chances of any peace plan now succeeding were questioned by Joe Biden, the US vice-president.
"[Putin] continues to call for new peace plans as his troops roll through the Ukrainian countryside," Mr Biden said during a visit to Brussels. "He absolutely ignores every agreement that his country has signed in the past and that he has signed."

Some European diplomats believed the US threats are simply a "bluff", given the Obama administration's professed lack of appetite for US military interventions abroad. Only on Friday, Mr Obama warned of the risk of "over-reaching" in a new document outlining his national security priorities.

There is, however, a wide consensus that the government in Kiev is at renewed risk of collapse, given recent further tumbles in the value of Ukrainian hryvnia, which is now the world's worst-performing currency.

One European diplomat said that reports of American plans to provide defensive arms to Ukraine showed a shift in sentiment, but added: "we don't see much evidence that President Obama has much enthusiasm".

Another senior EU diplomat said: "No one seriously wants to start sending arms. It is a bluff."

According to senior sources, the German Chancellor and French President "scrambled onto their plane" because of growing fears about the stability of the administration in Kiev and that the conflict was "on the edge of something palpably worse".

"The sense is that the situation is radically deteriorating, both militarily and economically," said a senior European diplomat.

It also emerged on Friday that Anatoly Antonov, the Russian deputy defence minister, will be among those on a new sanctions list due to be formally endorsed by European Union foreign ministers on Monday.

Mr Antonov would be the most senior of five Russians on the list alongside 14 Ukrainian separatists.

Meanwhile, members of parliament in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine passed a resolution on Friday saying the territory was the legitimate successor to the Donetsk–Krivoy Rog Republic, a short-lived independent territory founded in 1918 by a close associate of Joseph Stalin.

Denis Pushilin, a rebel representative who has welcomed the Moscow talks, said he was troubled by suggestions the US could arm Ukraine. "I believe that would cause an escalation of the conflict," he said. "It would bring new victims, but no peace."

***

Servicio BBC News, Reino Unido:

Título: Ukraine crisis: Leaders to put plan to Poroshenko

Subtítulo: The leaders of Russia, France and Germany have agreed in Moscow to work on a peace plan they will put to Ukraine's president on Sunday.

Texto: Russian President Vladimir Putin, France's Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked more than four hours on Friday. All three parties described the meeting as "constructive and substantive". 

They will discuss the plan for eastern Ukraine by phone with President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday.

The plan is thought to be an attempt to revive a September ceasefire, signed in Minsk in Belarus. Since then the rebels have seized more ground, raising alarm in Kiev and among Ukraine's backers.

Russia is accused of arming and reinforcing pro-Russian separatists - claims it denies.

Fighting has left nearly 5,400 people dead since April, the UN says.
Some 1.2 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since last April, when the rebels seized a big swathe of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Events in Ukraine are also expected to feature prominently at a security conference in the German city of Munich.

Mrs Merkel, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are all due to speak at the event.

It will not be what they say in public that matters but the private conversations in a raft of hastily arranged bilateral meetings behind closed doors, BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus reports.

There was no joint press conference or statement from the Russian, German and French leaders after such a high-profile Kremlin meeting. Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande left for the airport straight away. But if there was no breakthrough, there was also no breakdown.

Comments from officials from all three countries had clearly been co-ordinated. In Moscow, Paris and Berlin they all described the talks as substantive and constructive. They all noted that the three leaders, plus the president of Ukraine, would confer again by phone on Sunday.

And they all said work would continue on a possible blueprint for a deal, based on the French and German initiative, with added proposals from President Poroshenko and President Putin.

The fact that few details have been made public is probably positive. It suggests this is an attempt to negotiate seriously, without rhetoric and out of the public eye. But it also means we do not really know what is on the table, how far apart the various parties are and how fragile this latest mission to bring peace to Ukraine might be.

The peace proposal Mr Hollande and Mrs Merkel took to Moscow on Friday was crafted with the Ukrainian government on Thursday.

Mr Hollande said the aim was not just a ceasefire but a "comprehensive agreement", although Mrs Merkel said it was "totally open" whether that could be achieved.

Questions any plan would have to address include the route of any new ceasefire line - given the rebel advances of recent weeks - how to enforce it, and the future status of the conflict zone, says the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Moscow.

Moscow is still denying any direct role in the conflict, while Kiev insists above all that Ukraine must remain united, our correspondent says.
The Secretary General of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, has told the BBC that Moscow's support for the rebels in Ukraine is growing.

"We see a combination of Russian equipment provided by the Russians but also Russian troops," he said.

"Especially we have seen an increase in the supply of heavy equipment - artillery, tanks, advanced air defence systems. And some of these equipments [sic] are very advanced, they can only come from Russia and they can only be operated by people who have a lot of training, a lot of skills. And that just underscores that there are Russian troops in eastern Ukraine."

Washington is considering Ukrainian pleas for better weaponry to fend off the rebels, raising European fears of an escalation in the conflict and spurring the latest peace bid.


***

Diario The Guardian, Reino Unido:

Título: Putin and Ukraine leader to hold phone talks after inconclusive end to summit

Subtítulo: Russia’s spokesman says four-way phone-call to include Ukraine’s leader to take place on Sunday, after Merkel and Hollande depart talks without comment

Texto: An emergency summit between Russia, Germany and France aimed at containing the spread of the Ukraine conflict ended inconclusively on Friday night, with agreement only to work on a draft ceasefire.

Angela Merkel and François Hollande spent more than two hours in the Kremlin with Vladimir Putin before leaving for Moscow airport without comment.

But a German government spokesman said there was at least agreement to work on a joint truce document based on earlier ceasefire terms agreed in September in Minsk but never implemented.

“On the basis of a proposal by Germany’s chancellor and France’s president, a possible joint document to implement the Minsk agreement will now be worked on,” Steffen Seibert said after the talks in Moscow.

According to European diplomats, Putin had suggested reviving the Minsk agreement but with different ceasefire lines that recognised the territorial gains made by Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. But that suggestion was rejected by Kiev.

The Russian president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the talks involved just the three leaders without delegations, aides or experts. Despite the late start, there seemed little chance of the talks going to a second day, as Putin’s press service announced he would spend Saturday in Sochi at an “anniversary ice show” celebrating one year since the start of the Winter Olympics. He said the three leaders would hold a four-way phone-call with Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko on Sunday to discuss the proposals.

As the day went on it became increasingly clear that Merkel and Hollande had come to Moscow without a comprehensive plan. Instead, they had a response to proposals Putin sent them in letters earlier in the week, in which he envisaged an expansion of territory under rebel control.

However, Ukraine is insisting that any new ceasefire agreement should be based on the frontlines Russia agreed to in a truce brokered in Minsk last September.

Merkel and Hollande met Poroshenko, in Kiev on Thursday on their way to Moscow. They promised him that any new deal would guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The Moscow talks took place amid rising fears of an escalation in the fighting. A battle around the eastern Ukraine town of Debaltseve, a strategically important railway junction surrounded on three sides by separatist forces, was paused to let civilians leave by bus. On the ground, the ceasefire appeared to hold. The town, once of 20,000 people, has been the main target of a bloody rebel push. According to Kiev and western capitals, the new offensive is being fuelled by Russian arms supplies and manpower.

The Ukrainian government is appealing for western weapons to help it hold off the assault. “The peace in Europe depends on peace in Ukraine,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s prime minister said in a tweet. “And to get peace, Ukraine needs to have a capacity to defend itself.”

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has said Washington is weighing up whether to supply arms to the Ukraine government but the suggestion has met strong opposition from some western Europe governments, led by Germany. 
“Focusing merely on weapons could add fuel to the conflict and rather lead us away from a desired solution,” the German defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Friday. She argued that it would be smarter for western countries to use economic sanctions to hurt the Putin regime. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, said on Twitter the leaders discussed “steps so that the Minsk agreement can start working”.

Kerry sounded lukewarm about Merkel and Hollande’s visit. He said Putin had sent “a couple of ideas” and the pair had responded Kerry also said the US wanted a diplomatic solution but was reviewing all options, including “providing defensive systems to Ukraine”. US officials suspect Putin might use European eagerness to stop the fighting to consolidate his hold on Crimea.

The chances of a breakthrough hinge on establishing a durable ceasefire, according to senior officials.

Putin was said to be refusing to negotiate with Poroshenko, after making fresh proposals to Kiev 48 hours ago.

A senior British army officer has urged the British government to support a deterrent against Russian forces. General Sir Richard Shirreff, the leading British commander in Nato until last March, told BBC Radio 4’s Today that a strong message needed to be sent to Putin if mainland Europe was to avoid “total war”. He said: “Unless Nato speaks from a position of strength, we are gifting the advantage to Mr Putin. Wars start as a result of weakness, not of strength.”

***

Diario The New York Times, EEUU:

Título: Ukraine Insists Any Pact With Russia Must Adhere to Terms of September Accord

Texto: KIEV, Ukraine — As the leaders of Germany and France met with PresidentVladimir V. Putin of Russia in Moscow on Friday to discuss a deal to end the war in eastern Ukraine, officials in Kiev insisted that any agreement must hold to the cease-fire lines and to other terms of a truce negotiated in September but that never took hold.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and President François Hollande of France left the meeting with Mr. Putin after five hours with no concrete results announced.

In brief remarks broadcast on state television, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, called the talks “constructive and substantive,” and said that consultations would continue by telephone on Sunday.

The parties are working to draw up a plan to carry out the September agreement reached in Minsk, Belarus, Mr. Peskov said. The document would incorporate suggestions from Mr. Putin and the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, he said.

The Ukrainian position underscored the formidable obstacles to an accord to end the fighting between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists that has killed more than 5,000 people and displaced more than one million, the worst violence on the European Continent since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Mr. Putin, in letters this week to Mr. Hollande, and the Ms. Merkel, put forward a proposal that apparently included shifts in the cease-fire boundaries based on recent gains by pro-Russian separatist fighters, diplomats said. The proposal also included a plan to grant political autonomy to the embattled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Western officials briefed on Mr. Putin’s plan described it as a nonstarter that would turn eastern Ukraine into another post-Soviet frozen-conflict zone, like Abkhazia along the border with Georgia or the pro-Russian breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova, where the Kremlin maintains several thousand troops, ostensibly as a peacekeeping force.

In a television interview shortly after Mr. Hollande and Ms. Merkel met with Mr. Poroshenko of Ukraine for five hours on Thursday night, a senior Ukrainian official said the leaders were focused entirely on carrying out the lapsed accord.
Contrary to Mr. Hollande’s statement on Thursday that he and Ms. Merkel were headed to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, to present a new proposal, the Ukrainian official, Valeriy Chaly, who is Mr. Poroshenko’s senior aide on foreign affairs, said the European leaders arrived with no new plan and instead the meeting focused on the need to put in effect the provisions of the Minsk truce.

“There are no secrets,” Mr. Chaly said in an interview on the 1+1 television channel. “The negotiations in different formats have lasted for more than five hours today. The basis for these negotiations wasn’t any ‘Putin document.’ It was the production of a vision for the implementation of the Minsk agreements by the delegations, or commands, of all sides, including Ukrainian side, French, German sides. This is the main basis, which nobody denies.”

As the Moscow session ended, the Ukrainian presidential administration issued a statement by Mr. Chaly reiterating that the focus was on the Minsk accord and not some new initiative. “We are not talking about a new phase of compromises,” he said.

In a statement issued after 1 a.m. on Friday, Mr. Poroshenko said the leaders were adamant about the importance of the main terms of the Minsk accord.
“The three leaders called for an immediate cease-fire, withdrawal of foreign troops from Ukraine, withdrawal of heavy weapons and equipment, closing the border and the release of all hostages,” Mr. Poroshenko’s statement said. He added that they were also calling for the release of a Ukrainian helicopter pilot, Nadezhda Savchenko, who is being held in prison in Russia.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin before leaving for Moscow on Friday, Ms. Merkel sought to dampen expectations that the talks there would result in a cease-fire, and raised the possibility that further discussions would be necessary.

“We are convinced there will be no military solution to the conflict,” the chancellor said. “We know, however, that it remains completely open whether we will be able to reach a cease-fire through these talks.”

“I would like to add that François Hollande and I are not engaging as neutral mediators, but we represent our French and German, but above all European, interests,” Ms. Merkel said. She added that she had also consulted with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council.

Washington and NATO have been more open to the possibility of sending arms to Ukraine. Speaking at a security conference in Munich on Friday, NATO’s top commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, said military support should not be excluded if economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure fail to persuade Russia to cease its military support for the separatists in Ukraine.

“What we need to accept is that there is a large tool bag that we can use,” said General Breedlove, who is an American Air Force general.

His comments were consistent with those of Ashton B. Carter, Mr. Obama’s choice for defense secretary, who told Congress this week that he was inclined to support providing arms to Ukraine. Chuck Hagel, who is leaving his post as defense secretary, also supports the provision of defensive armsto Ukraine.

The White House has been much more cautious, and President Obama is waiting until Chancellor Merkel visits Washington on Monday before deciding.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., meeting with European officials in Brussels, said Mr. Putin “continues to call for new peace plans as his troops roll through the Ukrainian countryside and he absolutely ignores every agreement that his country has signed in the past,” according to The Associated Press.

Mr. Biden said that Russia should not be allowed to redraw the map of Europe and that the European Union and the United States should provide the government of Ukraine with financial and political aid.

Separately, the European Union is prepared to expand its list of Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities subject to sanctions over the Ukraine invasion, news services reported.

Among the 19 individuals are five Russians, including members of Parliament and officials of the Defense Ministry. The new sanctions are expected to be approved on Monday.

The Ukrainian leadership seems increasingly concerned with maintaining unity with its Western allies and with keeping alive the possibility that the Obama administration would supply weapons to the beleaguered Ukrainian military.
An official in the Ukrainian presidential administration, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Secretary of State John Kerry had promised that Washington would make a decision soon about supplying weapons, perhaps even by next week.

Mr. Poroshenko, who was scheduled to fly to Munich for the security conference Friday afternoon, delayed his departure to stay in Kiev and monitor the unfolding talks in Moscow.

As the security conference got underway, the German defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, came under pressure over German refusal to supply Ukraine with weapons.

Stressing that it was important to remain united in Europe over Ukraine, Ms. von der Leyen argued that negotiations with Russia, unlike with Islamic State jihadists, were possible. Germany sees Ukraine and Russia as a chance to prove that in the 21st century, developed nations should solve disputes at the negotiating table, not with weapons, she said.

In addition, she noted, Russia has an almost infinite supply of weapons it could send in to Ukraine. She questioned whether any effort by the West could match that or, more important, achieve the outcome sought by Ukraine and its supporters.

The obstacles to a deal were further highlighted Thursday when the Kremlin’s top spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, repeated Russia’s longstanding denials that any of its military personnel were on the ground in eastern Ukraine. That prompted the Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, to respond mockingly at a news conference in Kiev, “If they need, I can give them my glasses.”

“We are not fighting with rebels or guerrillas,” he added. “We are fighting with the regular Russian military.”

***

Diario The Washington Post, EEUU:

Título: Moscow talks fail to produce a Ukraine peace deal

Texto: MOSCOW — European leaders on Friday broke from last-ditch negotiations without reaching an agreement to calm an escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine, as new splits opened between the United States and Europe over whether to bolster Ukrainian forces with arms shipments.

Kremlin talks between the leaders of Russia, Germany and France stretched for more than five hours, but they ended early Saturday with no conclusion, a sign of the bitter divisions between the two sides. The leaders planned to continue the negotiations over the weekend and to speak again by telephone on Sunday.

The core of the deal appeared to be a return to a tattered cease-fire agreed to in Minsk, Belarus in September. But Ukraine and Russia have differed over crucial issues such as how much territory would be left under the control of the rebels, who have captured hundreds of square miles since the deal was inked last year.

The Moscow visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel was her first since the conflict in Ukraine erupted nearly a year ago, and it was a sign of the high stakes she assigned to reaching an agreement. But both French President François Hollande and she sped to a Moscow airport after midnight and departed, giving no statements.

“Joint work is being done at the moment to draw up the text of a possible joint document on implementing the Minsk agreements, a document that would include the Ukrainian president’s proposals and proposals formulated and added today by Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters early Saturday.

“Preliminary outcomes” will be discussed on Sunday in a telephone conversation between the Ukrainian, Russian, German and French leaders, Peskov said.

The burst of diplomacy came as the White House deliberated on whether to arm Ukraine’s military with powerful tools such as antitank missiles, surveillance drones and advanced radar. That possibility appears to have opened rifts between Washington and Europe, which have thus far been unified in their efforts to put pressure on Russia. One top German official said Friday that sending weapons to Ukraine was a dangerous idea.

“Focusing merely on weapons deliveries could add fuel to the conflict,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told an international security conference in Munich, strongly cautioning the West against providing arms to Ukraine. “Are we sure that Ukraine can actually win against the machinery of Russia? Have we fully understood the huge potential for conflict?”

Russia, she argued, could simply funnel an unlimited number of arms to the separatists. She suggested using economic levers against Russia instead.
Von der Leyen’s comments underscored the sharp differences between European capitals and a segment of policymakers in Washington who are arguing in favor of providing weapons.

Ukrainian officials said any agreement to stop the fighting must adhere to principles agreed to for the previous cease-fire in September, raising questions about how durable any new peace plan could be. The September agreement quickly broke down. Officials briefed on Putin’s newest suggestions for a resolution said he wanted to put in place measures that would effectively turn eastern Ukraine into a frozen conflict zone similar to those in several other former Soviet republics, including Moldova and Georgia. Those territories give the Kremlin powerful sway over their national governments.

The Minsk agreements demand that Russia seal its porous border with Ukraine to prevent arms and fighters from flowing in. It also envisioned more autonomy, but not full independence, for the rebel-held areas. Ukraine and its western allies accuse Russia of fueling the conflict with troops and weapons. The Kremlin acknowledges that Russian citizens are taking part in the fight, but it denies any role in the war.

The fighting has claimed at least 5,300 lives, according to U.N. estimates, and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes.

Ukrainian officials expressed worries Friday that any split between the United States and Europe over the arms shipments would give the initiative to Putin.
Putin’s “interest lies in the maximum destabilization for the situation in Ukraine,” a Ukrainian diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the state of the negotiations frankly.

“As soon as he sees any break in the front of the West, the U.S. and the E.U., he will definitely see it as a spark for more actions,” the diplomat said.

In Washington, national security adviser Susan E. Rice said Friday that the Obama administration has not made a decision yet to provide “lethal defensive equipment” to Ukraine and would do so only “in close consultation with our partners, whose unity on this issue with us thus far has been a core element of our strength in responding to Russia’s aggression.”

Russian leaders also warned that any peace proposals could be crushed if Washington decides to arm Ukraine’s military.

Hollande and Merkel headed to Moscow a day after talks in Kiev with Ukraine’s Western-allied president, Petro Poroshenko. Merkel is scheduled on Saturday to address a conference in Munich at which Poroshenko, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Vice President Biden and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will also be present.

Merkel is scheduled to meet with President Obama in Washington on Monday. “We are convinced that there’s no military solution to this conflict,” Merkel said Friday in Berlin, ahead of the Moscow talks.

NATO’s top military commander, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, said Friday that it was a mistake to take stronger steps off the table. Options in the “tool bag” of responses in Ukraine should include military measures alongside other ones, Breedlove said in Munich.

“If what is being done is not producing what you want to gain from the conversation, then maybe all tools in the tool bag should be used, and conventional means should not be outwardly discounted,” he said.

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