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Merkel confirms intention offer if necessary military assistance Estonia, Latvia

The EU response to Russia's actions related to the situation in Ukraine is the correct decision, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview published in Welt am Sonntag on Sunday.

"I would have been incorrect to leave without a reaction that Russia had violated Ukraine's territory integrity and sovereignty, which it guaranteed under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994," she said.

"Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, our eastern neighbours, have signed association agreements with the EU on their own sovereign decisions. Russia is preparing problems for these countries," Merkel added.

Speaking about Moldova, she said the country "has been suffering for many years because of Transdniestria."

"We have undertaken big political efforts to help them out, but, in vain as yet," she said mentioning also Kiev's reaction to Crimea's joining the Russian Federation. "At the same time, we can see Russia has been undertaking economic and political attempts to make dependent from it several Balkan countries."

Should it be necessary, she said, military assistance would be offered to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

"The question of was in the Baltic countries is not on the agenda. However, we should observe Article 5 of the NATO agreement, which reads the obligation to offer assistance to all partners in the alliance," she said. "This is why, for example, we are offering assistance in guarding the Baltic air space, organise new rapid reaction force and cooperate with Poland and Denmark."

This is the approach to offer guarding of the air space in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where those countries do not have necessary military air force. Since 2004, their NATO partners have been doing the guarding on the basis of rotation. The mission is delivered from Lithuania's Zuokniai air base and Estonia's Emari. The NATO fighters to enforce the guarding are located in Poland's Malbork.

After a meeting in Moscow with France's President Francois Holland, Russia's President Vladimir Putin told reporters: "We exchanged information on Ukraine's events. Both Russia and France call to stop the bloodshed there immediately, to find ways for rapprochement, including for the restoration of a common political space [in Ukraine]."

"The situation in Ukraine is tragic. We see that people have been dying there. But I hope that in the near future a final decision on a ceasefire will be made," Putin said.

Putin expects that Kiev will exclude any elements aimed at blocking Ukraine's southeast.

"Otherwise, it is difficult to see Ukraine's territorial integrity and Russia, as you all know, supports Ukraine's territorial integrity," he said.

"Certainly, we spoke about an urgency to revive economic ties between Ukraine's southeast and the other regions as the two parts are essential for each other since Ukraine's energy system was largely built on eastern coal," he said. "After all, economic ties must be revived and coal must be delivered there for energy in return. Financial organisations must start functioning in a normal mode."

The Russian president is confident, "Everything can be done and must be done and as soon as possible."

However, "the current situation inspires hope for the better," Putin told reporters on Saturday adding that "I think, or at least expect, that it could happen or will happen in the near future."

"Russia initiated a meeting in Minsk, the protocols were signed with our participation so we favour their complete implementation," Putin said underscoring that "not everything is being implemented by both Kiev, on the one side, and Donetsk and Lugansk, on the other"

"But nevertheless, let's hope that Kiev and Donetsk and Lugansk will find mutually acceptable solutions which would satisfy all the sides and above all else, would end at least a military part of the conflict at this stage."

Putin said that "specialists have agreed on several disengagement lines for a withdrawal of heavy weapons: one line is just for civilian separation, another is for pulling out artillery and the further one is for a withdrawal of multiple rocket launcher systems," the Russian president said.

"There are no differences over the withdrawal of artillery and multiple rocket launcher systems, everyone agrees but it must be done as soon as possible," he said.

"I hope that it will be done in the near future as only after it comes in force, after the end of shelling and human deaths, only after that a real beginning of a political process and restoration of a common political space can be discussed," Putin said adding that "it must be done as soon as possible."

On September 3 Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested his seven-item plan to settle the crisis in Ukraine. Two days later on September 5 a meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine was held in Minsk when the sides adopted a 12-item protocol on peace settlement in Ukraine, with agreements on a ceasefire and exchange of prisoners.

On September 20 the Contact Group on Ukraine adopted a memorandum on implementing a ceasefire. The nine-item document includes a ban on all weapons, a withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of engagement and the setting up of a buffer zone of 15 kilometres. OSCE envoy Heidi Tagliavini, Ukraine's former president Leonid Kuchma, Russia's Ambassador to Kiev Mikhail Zurabov, Prime Minister of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) Aleksandr Zakharchenko and head of the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR), Igor Plotnitsky, put their signatures under the document which also entrusts the OSCE with a task of controlling implementation of the agreements.

[Source: Itar Tass, Berlin, 07Dec14]

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