Putin Seeks Stability in Ukraine
MOSCOW – International News – On August 26, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin is to visit Minsk, Belarus, to take part in a meeting between the heads of the Customs Union member-states which is comprised of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus; and the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. Also attending will be representatives of the European Commission the Kremlin announced Tuesday.
A number of bilateral meetings are also scheduled to take place.
Poroshenko, who confirmed the news in a statement, said that “stabilizing the situation” in eastern Ukraine would be a key topic of discussion.
The announcement came as the Ukrainian government captured most of a town near Donetsk, tightening the noose around the key rebel-held stronghold.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a Facebook post that one soldier was killed and four wounded when a volunteer battalion came under mortar fire before entering the town of Ilovaysk, 11 miles east of Donetsk. Among the wounded is the commander of the Donbass battalion, Semyon Semenchenko, who said government soldiers destroyed three rebel checkpoints and four firing positions, and that fighting continues.
Government efforts to quell the pro-Russian separatist front have focused lately on gradually encircling Donetsk, the largest rebel-controlled city.
Ukrainian troops were also advancing in the neighboring region. Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security Council, told reporters on Tuesday government troops have captured one neighborhood in regional capital Luhansk and are fighting the rebels on city streets, including the city center.
The situation appears to be particularly dire in the city of Luhansk, near the Russian border, which has been left without electricity, running water or phone connections for 17 days. Independent reports from the besieged city are scarce since the area is very dangerous for journalists.
The city hall said in a statement on its website Tuesday that Luhansk and its city center came under fierce shelling overnight. An unspecified number of civilians were killed or wounded. Residents are standing in lines to buy bread as food supplies are running out, city hall said. Authorities also raised the alarm about a potential outbreak of infectious diseases since household waste has not been taken out of town for more than two weeks amid sweltering heat.