Ukraine on Monday offered an immediate ceasefire to Russia, after Moscow claimed that Kiev rejected a fresh peace initiative by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We are ready to work with Russia to ensure ceasefire and implementation of the provisions of Minsk agreements in their entirety,” Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin wrote on Twitter.
Klimkin’s Ministry said in a statement that Ukraine wants Moscow to commit itself to implementing the peace accords signed in the capital of Belarus in September.
The Russian Foreign Ministry retorted that Kiev should first withdraw heavy weapons from the front line, as stipulated in the accords.
“Only this approach will lower the risk of a fresh armed confrontation,” the ministry said.
The Kremlin said over the weekend that Ukraine had rejected a proposal by President Vladimir Putin to immediately withdraw heavy weapons.
Heavy fighting broke out last week in and around the airport of Donetsk after the city’s pro-Russian separatists tried to retake it from government troops.
Ukraine claimed over the weekend that it repelled the separatists, but the fighting continued Monday.
Exact casualty figures remained unclear, but separatist leaders in Donetsk said Monday that nine civilians were killed and 44 injured in shelling, and blamed the Ukrainian army.
Ukraine accuses the separatists of provoking civilian casualties by positioning their “Grad” missile systems in residential areas.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which brokered and monitors the September ceasefire, urged both sides to show restraint.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, whose country holds the organization’s rotating chairmanship this year, said that all sides should refrain from belligerence.
“This cycle of deadly violence and further escalation of hostilities cannot continue,” he said.
In Brussels, EU foreign ministers began discussions on the future of relations between the European Union and Russia.
The bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said before the meeting that the fresh violence is “not good news” and stressed that the sanctions against Russia would be lifted only after “improvements on the ground.”
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said the fresh fighting showed that the bloc’s tough policies in relation to Russia should not be lifted. “We see that there is no political will, there is no movement on the ground, so no reason to change policy,” he said.
The sanctions are not up for review before March and July, but the ministers will discuss resuming cooperation with Moscow in areas including foreign policy, trade and energy, according to a leaked paper prepared for Monday’s talks.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that efforts to hold a summit between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany were continuing. “There is constant contact,” he said.
The four countries’ foreign ministers last week failed to agree on such a summit. An attempt to hold talks with the separatists and the so-called Ukraine contact group also foundered on Friday.