BRUSSELS (AFP) - EU leaders urged Russia on Tuesday to work with new Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko and to continue withdrawing its troops from the country’s border.
“We expect (Russia) to cooperate with the newly elected and legitimate president,” said a draft EU summit statement seen by AFP.
Russia should likewise “continue the withdrawal of armed forces from the Ukrainian border and use its leverage on the armed separatists to de-escalate the situation” in the east, it said.
European Union leaders were meeting in Brussels to discuss the outcome of European Parliament elections on Tuesday but had also put Ukraine, where Mr Poroshenko won the vote Sunday, on the agenda.
The EU has applied visa bans and asset freezes to a series of high-profile Russian and Ukrainian figures judged to have helped in Moscow’s annexation of Crimea or stoked separatist violence in eastern Ukraine.
The draft statement noted that preparatory work on further sanctions was being carried out so that they would be ready “should events so require”.
Mr Poroshenko said on Monday the military would press its offensive against the insurgents who now control about a dozen cities and towns in the east.
At the same time, the 48-year-old pro-Western chocolate tycoon said he was ready to engage with the Russian leadership and was optimistic a meeting with President Vladimir Putin could be arranged soon.
The EU leaders also pressed on Poroshenko the need to make all efforts on his side to ease the conflict and to continue to adopt economic and political reforms to bring Ukraine up to European standards.
Former Ukraine president Viktor Yukanovych ditched an EU association accord in November under intense Russia pressure but Brussels has since extended many of its provisions to the government in Kiev.