Ceasefire must be implemented says Chancellor
In the telephone conversation Chancellor Angela Merkel and Presidents François Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko confirmed their will to stand by the Minsk agreements, in spite of the serious breach of the ceasefire in the eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve.
They agreed that concrete steps must be taken directly to fully implement the truce. Heavy weapons must also be withdrawn, with OSCE observers monitoring the procedure.
They also urged that the exchange of detainees must now begin. President Vladimir Putin promised to use his influence over the separatists to this end. Over the next few days, the ministers of foreign affairs of the four countries will continue to consult on the implementation of the Minsk package of measures.
Debaltseve in the hands of the separatists
On Wednesday, federal government spokesperson Steffen Seibert condemned the actions of the separatists in Debaltseve in the strongest possible terms. The breach of the ceasefire, he said, was a flagrant violation of the agreements reached in Minsk. "This is a massive violation of the ceasefire that came into force on Sunday. It breaches the package of measures signed only last Thursday to implement September's Minsk agreements," criticised Steffen Seibert.
"To put it quite plainly, the package of measures does not make any exceptions to the truce that came into force at midnight or to the withdrawal of heavy weapons beginning on Tuesday - no exception." Thus, the actions of the separatists in Delaltseve is a clear violation of the agreement.
On Wednesday (18 February) Ukrainian troops began to withdraw from Debaltseve. This transport hub in eastern Ukraine had seen heavy fighting for several weeks. It lies between Donetsk and Luhansk.
Package of measures must be implemented
The military actions of the pro-Russian separatists is bringing "extreme hardship and still more suffering to the people of the region with absolutely no consideration," said the government spokesperson. It is also "a severe blow to the agreement and to the hopes of peace for the whole of eastern Ukraine."
We must now insist that the package of measures is implemented, said Steffen Seibert. "We see the UN resolution, which was adopted unanimously, as an urgent call in this direction, and we will continue to use the options open to us over the next few days."
Assistance for the local people
To alleviate the hardship of the people in the areas that have seen heavy fighting, the Federal Foreign Office has decided to make available 10 million euros for emergency measures for those suffering as a result of the hostilities in eastern Ukraine, announced Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday (18 February) before a meeting with representatives of humanitarian aid organisations.
Efforts to prevent any further escalation of the situation in eastern Ukraine, said Frank-Walter Steinmeier before the meeting, should "not stop us thinking about the people in eastern Ukraine", who have been suffering food and fuel shortages for months, along with the almost total collapse of public infrastructure.
UN resolution - Russia has given its word
On Wednesday at the government press conference Steffen Seibert explained that the German government welcomes the fact that there is now a unanimously adopted UN Security Council resolution, "which means that Russia too has endorsed it". The document adopted during the night is a resolution that expressly endorses the Minsk agreements. It thus specifically approves the package of measures signed by Russia, Ukraine, the separatists and the OSCE. It is a question of implementing at last what was basically agreed last September in Minsk, declared the government spokesperson. "The UN has sent a very good signal."
Additional sanctions conceivable
Last week, the EU heads of state and government made it clear that there has been "no change of course" with respect to possible additional sanctions. "And this means that measures might have to be taken should there be any further escalation," declared Steffen Seibert. "The readiness to consider this step is there - and everything will depend on developments in eastern Ukraine."
Since the negotiations in Minsk on 12 February the Chancellor has been working intensively to achieve a full ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. In Minsk the Chancellor and the Presidents of France, Russia and Ukraine agreed on a package of measures to bring about a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine. The measures are to be implemented step by step. The ceasefire which came into force on 15 February is the most prominent outcome of the negotiations.