France insists Ukraine ceasefire deal not dead

Despite reports of ongoing violent clashes in the east of Ukraine, France insisted on Wednesday that the ceasfire deal agreed on in Minsk was "not dead". Hollande was due to speak to Putin on Wednesday evening.

France insists Ukraine ceasefire deal not dead
Pro-Russian rebels warm themselves by a fire during a break between fighting near the eastern Ukrainian city of Debaltseve on February 17, 2015. Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP

France said on Wednesday that the Ukraine ceasefire deal signed last week "was not dead" and it would do "everything to keep the agreement alive" despite the capture of a key town by pro-Russian

"We will continue, we know we have some problems, we know that not everything has been settled," said French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll. "But between the situation just before the Minsk agreement and the situation now… there has been progress.

French President Francois Hollande will speak on the phone with his German, Russian and Ukrainian counterparts on Wednesday evening, a French government spokesman said.

The call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko follows the capture of the key strategic town of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian rebels, which has threatened the tentative ceasefire agreement signed last week.

Speaking on Tuesday France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that "fundamental" parts of the ceasefire deal in Ukraine were not being followed, despite a reduction in fighting between government and rebel forces.

"We can say the ceasefire is being generally respected, but there are two major 'buts'," Fabius told the French parliament.

He said "extremely heavy fighting" was continuing around the contested town of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine, which pro-Russian rebels claim was not covered by the ceasefire agreement which came into force on Saturday.

Nor has there been a withdrawal of heavy weapons as planned, said Fabius.

"Clearly, these two aspects are fundamental."

France and Germany led the way in pushing for the truce deal in a bid to end the 10-month conflict that has claimed some 5,500 lives.

"Between the agreement on paper and the agreement on the ground, there are clearly differences," said Fabius.

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Macron, Scholz and Draghi meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have met the Ukrainian president in Kyiv, after the trio travelled overnight by train from Poland.

Macron, Scholz and Draghi meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

The three leaders left in the early hours of Thursday, arriving into Kyiv on Thursday morning. After a visit to the heavily-bombed town of Irpin, they met Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

It is the first time that the leaders of the three European Union countries have visited Kyiv since Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine, and the visit comes as Kyiv is pushing for membership of the EU.

Macron has been paying a two-day visit to Romania and Moldova to discuss the ongoing crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

There had been widespread speculation in France that he would combine the trip with a visit to Zelensky in Ukraine, but this was not confirmed until Thursday morning.

In a joint press conference with Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, Macron reiterated his desire that Ukraine should win the war, but added that eventually negotiations between Ukraine and Russia will be necessary.