KIEV (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Thursday that the Minsk peace deal on Ukraine was doomed to fail unless “real security” was restored in eastern Ukraine where government forces are pitted against Russian-backed separatists.
The Minsk agreement was negotiated by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in February 2015 to end the fighting which broke out in eastern Ukraine after the fall of a Moscow-backed president and the arrival in power of a pro-Western leadership.
But the ceasefire has failed to stop all fighting between Ukrainian government troops and the Russian-backed rebels while the two sides accuse each other of failing to honor the commitments made in Minsk.
More than 9,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which monitors implementation of the ceasefire, reports violations on a daily basis. Fighting has increased in recent months and the Ukrainian military has reported over 90 of its soldiers killed since March.
“Without real security in the Donbass (industrialized eastern Ukraine) and an end to the bloodshed on the contact line, the use of heavy weapons and blockading of OSCE access, Minsk is doomed to fail,” Kerry told a news conference in Kiev after talks with President Petro Poroshenko.
Kerry did not apportion blame, but he said without movement by Russia to implement the Minsk agreement Western sanctions against Moscow would remain.
He praised Ukraine for making a “good faith effort” to implement Minsk and he announced an additional $23 million in humanitarian assistance to help thousands of people affected by the conflict.
Kerry was due later to travel on to Warsaw for a NATO summit where the Ukraine crisis and Russia’s military activities in the region were among topics to be discussed.
He said Russian leader Vladimir Putin had indicated to U.S. President Barack Obama, in a phone call on Wednesday, that he wanted to see progress in the Minsk process.
“We are hopeful in the days ahead we will in fact be able to translate those expressions of hope and words in a telephone call into real actions that will make a difference,” Kerry added.
Poroshenko, alongside Kerry at the news conference, placed the blame squarely on Moscow and the rebels, however.
“There is a complete understanding – Russia and the fighters controlled by it bear sole responsibility for the stalling of the peace process in the Donbass … There cannot be a functional resolution if sustainable and comprehensive security is not guaranteed,” he said.
Kerry praised reforms by Ukraine’s government to boost the economy and fight corruption, but he said more was needed to strengthen democracy since street protests in 2013-2014 brought pro-Western leaders to power.
“Ukraine is undeniably moving forward but I think we all agree that the job isn’t done and more has yet to be done to strengthen Ukraine’s democracy,” Kerry said.
During discussions with Kiev leaders, Kerry said he stressed the need for further reforms to tackle graft in the state prosecutor’s office and judicial system.
He also emphasized the need to implement an IMF economic package in full and to privatize state-owned enterprises that are a drain on state coffers.
Additional reporting by Alexei Kalmykov; Editing by Richard Balmforth