Ukrainian president warns of ‘full-scale’ war with Russia

President Petro Poroshenko says failure of Minsk II agreement could torpedo ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and lead to ‘full-scale conflict’ with Russia

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine on January 14, 2016

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has warned of a possible "full-scale conflict" with Russia if a ceasefire agreed last year in the Belarussian capital Minsk between the Kiev government and Moscow-backed rebels’ falls apart.

Ukraine has been on the frontline of a political crisis between Russia and the West, with tensions escalating to their highest levels since the end of the Cold War.

In February 2014, Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital of Kiev, following months of violent protests sparked by his government’s refusal to accept a much-needed EU bailout due to Russian pressure.

A month later, Russia annexed the breakaway Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine following a referendum, in which Crimea’s predominantly ethnic Russian population voted in favour of joining Moscow.

Russia has also come under sanctions for allegedly giving military and political support to the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

Although Russia has repeatedly denied accusations of sending forces to help the rebels in eastern Ukraine, it has admitted that there are Russian nationals fighting in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions alongside the separatists.

Despite the ceasefire, sporadic clashes continue to add the death toll, which currently stands at over 9,000, particularly around the strategic coastal city of Mariupol, with pro-Russian rebels hoping to form a corridor from Donetsk to the Sea of Azov.

Speaking to local leaders in Kiev on Friday, Poroshenko said that the political forces that seek to “torpedo” the Minsk agreements must “clearly understand the consequences of their actions."

"They will lead to the resumption of the 'hot phase' of the conflict, including a full-scale -- and not local, as it has been so far -- conflict with Russia," he said, referring to those opposed to his country’s "decentralisation" process as part of the Minsk agreements.

The Minsk II agreement was signed in February 2015 between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany to take measures to appease the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine.

The decentralisation process will see more powers ceded to the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which are currently under rebel control, but this would require the approval of two-thirds of lawmakers in Ukraine’s 450-seat parliament.

"We are by no means going to withdraw or postpone a vote [on constitutional amendments on decentralisation]," Poroshenko underlined, adding that he hopes the legislation will be passed early this year.

Violent scenes were seen outside the Ukrainian parliament in August last year as nationalist groups clashed with police as Poroshenko submitted the decentralisation bill with the backing of 265 lawmakers.

TRTWorld and agencies