Ukraine to Russia: 'Get out of our land'
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is demanding that Russian President Vladimir Putin remove heavy weaponry from eastern Ukraine, a key condition of a truce that Ukrainian officials accuse Russia of violating.
“Russians, get out of our land,” Yatsenyuk said in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday. “Russian military and boots are still on Ukrainian ground.”
The cease-fire agreement, forged earlier this month with help from France and Germany, committed Russia and Ukraine to withdraw heavy weapons from the front lines of the conflict, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives since last March, when Russia forcibly annexed the Crimean peninsula. Both countries promised to allow monitoring by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and to launch a dialogue for holding local elections in the disputed Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Although the cease-fire led to decreased fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, reports of minor shelling continued hours after the agreement went into effect. Last week, the truce was shaken again by the rebel capture of Debaltseve, a critical railroad hub in eastern Ukraine, forcing thousands of Ukrainian troops to retreat from the city.
The United States and its allies are considering imposing additional sanctions on Russia for allegedly undermining the truce. Multiple world leaders have stressed the need for the cease-fire to remain in place, but there is skepticism that can happen. Western sanctions have strained the Russian economy, which is expected to fall into a recession this year, but has done little to loosen Putin’s grip on power or to deter his efforts to expand Moscow’s influence over Eastern Europe.