As President Obama met with Baltic leaders in Tallinn, Estonia, ahead of this week’s NATO summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin outlined plans for a possible cease-fire with Ukraine, based, he said, on a conversation of mutual understanding with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
From the New York Times:
The primary conditions on Mr. Putin’s list are that the separatists halt all offensive operations and that Ukrainian troops move their artillery back out of range of all population centers in the rebel-held area.
Mr Putin also called for Ukraine to cease airstrikes; the establishment of an international monitoring mission and humanitarian aid corridors; an “all for all” prisoner exchange; and “rebuilding brigades” to repair damaged roads, bridges, power lines and other infrastructure.
However, Kremlin press secretary Dmitri Peskov noted that, while Putin and Poroshenko did indeed have a discussion, “Russia cannot physically agree on a cease-fire, as it is not a side in the conflict.” (This sentiment was echoed by Vladislav Brig, head of the political department of the so-called Ministry of Defense in Donetsk.) The back-tracking clarification is reminiscent of last week, when Putin called for talks of statehood for Eastern Ukraine, and Peskov later said that Putin did not envision sovereignty for the region, which Peskov said should remain part of Ukraine.
According to the White House, Obama wants to make it clear during his visit to Estonia that it is “not OK for large countries to flagrantly violate the territorial integrity of their smaller neighbors.”
“If, in fact, Russia is prepared to stop financing, arming, training, in many cases joining with Russian troops’ activities in Ukraine and is serious about a political settlement, that is something we all hope for,” Obama said at a news conference from Estonia’s capital. For his part, president of Estonia and host of the presummit meeting Ilves Toomas countered Peskov’s claim. “This is Russian aggression. … Russia must admit that it is a party to the conflict and take genuine steps that will lead to a de-escalation of the conflict.” Estonia is one of just four countries in the organization that spends the NATO-recommended 2 percent of its GDP on defense.