Putin And Poroshenko Handshake At ‘Peace Talks’
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and Russian leader Vladimir Putin have sat down for talks – hours after video footage of captured Russian soldiers risked inflaming tensions between the two countries.
The two leaders met alongside senior EU officials in Belarus, where Mr Putin said the conflict in eastern Ukraine would not be solved by a military escalation in the region.
Mr Poroshenko said the talks would decide “the fate of Europe and the world”.
The Russian president’s conciliatory words came after Ukraine presented fresh evidence suggesting Russian military activity within Ukraine.
Ukraine’s security service (UBS) released video footage purportedly showing 10 Russian paratroopers who were captured by the army in the war-torn east of the country.
The UBS said it had opened a criminal probe after soldiers from the 98th airborne division based in central Russia were detained near the village of Dzerkalne, around 30 miles (50km) from rebel-held Donetsk.
A Ukrainian military spokesman said the men were on a “special mission”.
But Russian military sources quoted by state news agencies have claimed the soldiers crossed the border by mistake.
In footage posted on the official Facebook page of the Ukrainian government’s “anti-terrorist operation”, the men were shown dressed in camouflage fatigues.
One of them, who identified himself as Ivan Melchyakov, listed his personal details, including the name of the paratroop regiment he said is based in the Russian town of Kostroma.
Mr Putin said Moscow would retaliate if a trade pact between Ukraine and the EU gave European goods a back door to Russian markets – a move he said that would cost his economy 100bn roubles (£1.6bn)
Even as the Ukrainian president landed outside Minsk earlier on Tuesday, his country’s military said an attack by Russian separatists on the town of Novoazovsk was ongoing.
A spokesman said a hospital was on fire and 12 Ukrainian service personnel had been killed in the last 24 hours – while government forces had destroyed 12 armoured infantry carriers in the area using artillery and aircraft.
Kiev has accused its neighbour of stoking the separatist insurgency but this is the first time authorities have claimed to have captured Russian soldiers.
Moscow continues to deny any involvement in the rebellion.