Ultimatum to Putin: Merkel may agree to U.S. sending weapons to Ukraine – WSJ

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has given Russian President Vladimir Putin until Wednesday to agree to a road map to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine, otherwise Germany won’t oppose the U.S. plan if Barack Obama opts to send weapons to Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reports referring to according to Western diplomats.

Ms. Merkel and French President François Hollande spoke by phone with Mr. Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday; officials said the four were aiming to meet in person on Wednesday in Belarus to finalise a deal.

But Europeans cautioned that success was far from assured, and U.S. officials voiced deep skepticism Mr. Putin would accept the Franco-German plan, even as they insisted they backed the peace efforts.

According to the WSJ, if  Russia has blocked a deal, Germany will likely move to step up European sanctions against Russian companies, possibly including broader asset freezes.

Moreover, as the U.S. is considering supplying Ukraine with lethal aid, President Barack Obama has held off on a decision until he sees Ms. Merkel—who has publicly opposed weapons deliveries—on Monday morning. Ms. Merkel and other German officials have staunchly opposed arming Ukraine, arguing new weaponry can’t match Russian arms and forces and would likely escalate the violence and torpedo negotiations.

But while Ms. Merkel has taken a tough line in public, alliance officials said she has told Mr. Putin privately that she won’t oppose the U.S. plan if Mr. Obama opts to send weapons to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov has rebuted the journal’s information on any ultimatum.

“Nobody has ever talked to the President in terms of ultimatum and nobody will be allowed to do so, ” Peskov told Russian radio station ‘Govorit Moskva’ (Moscow Speaks) on Monday. He added that the talks were ‘constructive’.

On Wednesday the Belarusian capital of Minsk is to host the meeting of leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia. Last Thursday Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande met with Petro Poroshenko, which was followed by their talk to Vladimir Putin on Friday. The leaders were discussing peace initiatives, but no detail was revealed to journalists. Hollande only told French television they believed a demilitarised zone over 100 kilometres wide was required in east Ukraine. He suggested that the buffer zone would be 50-70 kilometres wide on both the Ukrainian and Russian-occupied sides of the contact line.  Their peace plan also provided broad powers of autonomy for the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR.

www.belsat.eu/en, via The Wall Street Journal

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