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Ukraine seeks US, EU help to secure Crimea return

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures during his press conference in Kiev on January 14, 2015. (AFP photo)

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko says he has been seeking assistance from the United States and European Union for reclaiming the strategic Black Sea Crimea peninsula from Russia.

President Poroshenko told a press briefing in the capital Kiev on Thursday that he wanted to launch an "international process... that includes the European Union, the United States and possibly the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum" that could unlock Moscow's control on the peninsula which joined Russia in 2014.

Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum a day earlier, in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of secession. The voter turnout in the referendum stood at 83.1 percent.

The "Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances" is a diplomatic memorandum that was signed in December 1994 by Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Under the agreement, Kiev agreed to become a nuclear-free state, renouncing its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal. The agreement in return offered guarantees of Ukraine's sovereignty and integrity.

A few weeks ahead of the referendum in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that guarantees of territorial integrity of Ukraine could not be extended to the Ukrainian government that claimed power after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

The Ukraine crisis and Crimea’s reunion with Russia have plunged Kremlin’s relations with the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.

Since then, the US and some other Western countries have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia over accusations that Moscow has been involved in a deadly crisis in Ukraine, which broke out when Kiev launched military operations to crack down on pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Russia has denied the allegation.

US Vice President Joe Biden (L) gestures along Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev on December 7, 2015. (AFP)

"In 2016, we must also ensure the renewal of Ukraine's sovereignty over the (eastern) occupied territories of Lugansk and Donetsk," said Poroshenko. 

Violence intensified in eastern Ukraine in April 2014, after Kiev deployed troops to the eastern Ukrainian regions of Lugansk and Donetsk to suppress pro-Russians.

Ukraine’s warring sides reached a truce deal at a summit attended by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk on February 11 and 12 last year. The agreement introduced measures such as a ceasefire, which officially went into effect on February 15, the pullout of heavy weapons from the conflict zones, and constitutional reforms in Ukraine by the end of the year.

Ukrainian Army soldiers patrol the empty streets of Debaltseve, in the Donetsk region, on February 3, 2015. (AFP photo)

The shaky deal has, however, failed to eliminate the violence in the mainly Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine, with both sides trading accusations of breaching the ceasefire agreement.

In a fresh attempt on Wednesday, the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia forces struck a new truce deal, following the failure of a previous agreement.

The deal was agreed following talks between Russian and Ukrainian envoys in  Minsk with the aid of a senior negotiator from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

According to UN figures, thousands of people have so far lost their lives in the conflict since April 2014.  

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