Representatives from Ukraine, Russia and European security watchdog the OSCE will meet in Belarus’s capital Minsk on Friday for a new round of talks aimed at ending fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry announced the meeting shortly after Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko called for urgent talks following a flare-up of violence in the region in recent weeks.
"The contact group on Ukraine has informed the Belarusian side of its intention to hold its next meeting in Minsk on January 30," the ministry said in a statement, without specifying whether representatives for pro-Russia separatists fighting in Ukraine’s east would be present at the talks.
Separatist leaders officially withdrew from peace negotiations last week as they announced the launch of a new offensive to expand their area of control.
Meanwhile, Russia’s envoy to the OSCE called on the United States and Europe on Thursday to stop supporting the “party of war” in Ukraine and warned “catastrophe” could result, Interfax news agency reported.
“I would like to appeal to the states that have influence on Kiev’s leadership, most of all to Washington. It’s time to stop indulging Ukraine’s party of war,” said Russia’s OSCE envoy, Andrei Kelin. “Only a big catastrophe can result from such developments.”
Russia has increasingly blamed the United States and NATO for the violence in eastern Ukraine. The West accuses Moscow of feeding a pro-Russian insurgency with guns and soldiers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week that the Ukrainian army was a legion of NATO sent to geopolitically contain Russia.
Kelin added, “It’s time to stop covering (Kiev’s) inhuman actions, it is unacceptable to push (them) toward the continuation of war in eastern Ukraine."
Russia denies accusations it is sending money, arms or weapons to eastern Ukraine, where a pro-Russian uprising began months after Ukraine’s Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted by street protests.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)