EU-Ukraine summit to deepen ties as shelling worsens 


April 27, Kiev: EU leaders are in talks with Ukraine‘s President Petro Poroshenko covering trade and peace efforts, as heavy shelling intensifies in the east.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk are at the Kiev talks, Ukraine wants EU peacekeepers to help enforce a ceasefire agreed with pro-Russian rebels. But the EU is reluctant to engage in such a mission, international observers report intense shelling near the city of Mariupol.

On Sunday tank and mortar rounds pounded Shyrokyne, a village held by government forces near Mariupol, a strategic government-held port city.

The OSCE observers said it was the most intense shelling since fighting began in the area in mid-February, heavy weapons including tanks were spotted in rebel-held areas nearby, the OSCE said. Such weapons were supposed to have been pulled back under the truce agreed in February.

The Kiev talks are the first between Mr Poroshenko and EU leaders since a key EU-Ukraine association agreement was signed last June, A joint press conference is expected at 16:15 local time (13:15 GMT).

The EU agreed to delay implementing the deal with Ukraine until January 2016, in response to Russian complaints, Russia is suspicious of the agreement, arguing that free trade could turn Ukraine into a conduit for cheap goods flooding into Russia, the EU is anxious for Ukraine to enact far-reaching economic reforms to tackle unsustainable debts, inflation and widespread corruption, The Business Insider reported.

BBC economics expert Andrew Walker says reform of the heavily subsidized energy sector is a priority, as energy inefficiencies are a big drain on the national budget, But peace and stability are the short-term priorities for Ukraine, he says.

The heavily armed rebels refuse to recognize Kiev’s authority and the West accuses Russia of arming them and sending in regular soldiers. Russia denies that, insisting that any Russians on the rebel side are “volunteers”.

Mr Poroshenko says EU or UN peacekeepers are needed to ensure proper monitoring of frontline areas and the rebel-controlled border between Russia and Ukraine‘s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, “In the buffer zone unarmed OSCE employees today have great difficulty performing their duties,” he told the private Ukraina TV channel.                     The Oslo Times

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