Filming and editing: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today
Agression. Russia. Sanctions. These were the common themes of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko when he spoke at the press conference with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinistö, at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday noon.
Because of the long history and active discussions with Finland, Poroshenko assured the listeners that “You understand Ukraine better than anyone else does.” “I thank Finland for its firm position to preserving sanctions against Russia until the full completion of the Minsk agreements,” he said.
The Minsk agreements . . . the plan to bring lasting peace to Ukraine consists of two parts. The first one was described by The Economist as a “hasty peace deal between Ukraine, Russia and the separatists” signed in September 2014. Minsk I was broken down fast; by January 2015, the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army had returned in full scale. In February the same year, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President François Hollande stepped in to try to revive the ceasefire. This “package of measures,” a 13-point plan, became known as Minsk II. The plan offered a roadmap for resolving the conflict. It pushes all parts to a ceasefire and demands of the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines, among other things. But according to the Economist, the agreement is “riddled with loose language and the sequencing of many steps is highly convoluted.”
In Finland, Poroshenko asked for Niinistö’s help. “I addressed Mister President to step up the pressure on the Russian side to liberate our people from the Russian presence as well as from the captivity in Donbass.” Donbass is a historical region in eastern Ukraine next to the border of Russia where new casualties of the conflict are found frequently.
Poroshenko said that he would be happy if the sanctions set against Russia by the EU and the United States could be lifted. But that would require that Russia would fulfill all the conditions of the Minsk agreements. “Russia is an aggressor. Russia occupied the east of my country and has an illegal annexation of the Crimea and brutally violated the international law,” Poroshenko said.
According to Poroshenko, during the conflict which started in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea, more than 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and more than 7,500 civilians have lost their lives as the result of the Russian aggression.
President Niinistö agreed with Poroshenko that lifting up the sanctions would be a “good thing.” “But there is a condition and that is the Minsk,” Niinistö said.