European Union and Russian Federation at loggerheads over Ukraine separatist passports

The initiative is likely to anger Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, who has explicitly ruled out "swapping" Crimea for Donbas and says Russian Federation must stick to the Minsk peace agreement, the existing peace plan he negotiated with Vladimir Putin two years ago. Manafort and Artemenko have apparently never met. Poroshenko has been fighting a war against Russia-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine since replacing his ousted pro-Russia predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014.

Demonstrators on Monday also filled the streets of Kiev to honor the victims of violence on February 20, 2014, when snipers shot dozens of protesters pushing for the ouster of then-President Viktor Yanukovich.

Fighting has recently escalated in the conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, refocusing global attention on a simmering conflict that has strained relations between Russia and the West.

In turn, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said that the decision of Moscow to recognize documents issued by certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions disagreed with the logic of the Minsk agreements.

"The OSCE Chairmanship notes that documents issued on the sovereign territory of Ukraine are only valid if done so by the internationally recognized authorities", the statement said. After Russia sent in troops to the Ukrainian region of Crimea, a vote on Ukraine's annexation to Russia was held, however, never recognized by the worldwide community.

In today's sketchy Trump administration news, President Donald Trump's counselor, Michael Cohen, reportedly drafted a plan to lift sanctions on Russian Federation, which he had delivered by hand to former national security adviser Michael Flynn before he was sacked, the New York Times reports.

Government officials in Ukraine called the decision a "deliberate escalation".

"Know this: The United States will continue to hold Russian Federation accountable, even as we search for new common ground, which as you know President Trump believes can be found", the Vice President said.

Essentially, his plan would require the withdrawal of all Russian forces from eastern Ukraine.

Artemenko's initiative has been disavowed by both the Russian and Ukrainian governments. "All parties will use their influence to implement the agreement of the trilateral contact group from Feb 15", he said, to a body comprising Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

  • Leroy Wright