France and Germany have pressed again for respect for the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine and withdrawal of heavy weaponry, threatening with new costs if warring sides there don’t comply with last week’s truce deal.
Speaking Friday to reporters in Paris, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that sanctions could be imposed if the Minsk agreement to stabilize Ukraine are not fully implemented and the cease-fire is not observed.
“With the [German] Chancellor we have never stopped speaking since the Minsk agreements and we are more convinced than ever that these agreements must be applied - all the agreements, nothing but the agreements -- meaning the cease-fire which is still under threat, which has been violated several times, notably at Debaltseve in these last few days - and which must now be fully observed across the line,'' said Hollande.
Any country that failed to respect the Minsk agreements risks sanctions, added Hollande.
Hollande and Merkel mediated at talks last week in Minsk between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin at talks that produced the latest truce agreement.
The cease-fire went into effect last Saturday at midnight, but was violated almost immediately by the rebel assault on and take-over of Debaltseve, a key transport hub near Donetsk that had been largely controlled by Ukrainian government troops.
Ukrainian military spokesman Anatoliy Stelmakh also said Russia is still moving military equipment into Ukraine, including tanks sent in the direction of Novoazovsk, a rebel-held town near Mariupol, a strategic port city.
The White House said earlier this week that it is "crystal clear" that the separatists in eastern Ukraine and Russia are not living up to the latest cease-fire agreement and also warned of possible costs.
“We believe that it is important for all sides to live up to [the Minsk] agreement. It is also crystal clear that Russia-backed separatists and Russia themselves have not lived up to their commitments that they made in the context of [the Minsk] negotiations,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
Earnest added that the separatists and Moscow may incur “greater costs” and “should be mindful of that as they consider their next steps.”
Russia has consistently denied it is supporting the rebels with hardware or manpower.