KIEV – Western leaders yesterday called for a "strong reaction" from the international community to any major violation of a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine as they sought to further pressure Russia over the conflict.
The leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Britain and Italy plus EU head Donald Tusk also argued for strengthening a mission charged with monitoring the ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons.
In video talks on the conflict, the leaders restated their support for a February 12 truce between government forces and pro-Russian separatists, the French presidency said.
"They agreed that a strong reaction from the international community would be necessary in the case of a major violation in the implementation" of the deal signed in the Belarus capital Minsk, a statement said.
The leaders did not specify what a "major" break from the accord might be, nor what response it would provoke, but hinted at the possibility of further sanctions on Moscow, which the West and Kiev accuse of supporting the separatists with troops and weapons.
Germany's Angela Merkel, France's Francois Hollande, Britain's David Cameron and Italy's Matteo Renzi joined US President Barack Obama and Tusk on the video conference.
Both the Ukrainian army and the separatists who took up arms after the ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych claim to be upholding a commitment to move their artillery back from the frontline.
But the two sides also accuse each other of continuing to spring attacks in defiance of attempts to end 11 months of bloodshed that has killed over 6,000 people according to a UN tally.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko called on Tuesday for 10 locations "where the ceasefire is constantly violated" to have permanent supervision from monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Ukraine said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had backed the suggestion in a four-way telephone call with Poroshenko, Merkel and Hollande on Monday evening.
The offices of Hollande, Merkel, and Putin, in their statements on the discussion, called for intensified monitoring without listing sites.
In Tuesday's video conference, the six Western leaders called for the "strengthening of the OSCE's capacity" to monitor the ceasefire, the French presidency said. — AFP