West asks Putin to enforce cease-fire

US, EU may seek more sanctions if fighting persists

MOSCOW — The Kremlin on Wednesday renounced the right to send troops into Ukraine and voiced support for a peace plan, but the West said Russia must do much more to stop the fighting in eastern Ukraine if it wants to avoid a new, more crippling round of sanctions.

A cease-fire, already fragile, is set to expire Friday, the same day that Ukraine signs a pivotal economic agreement with the European Union and the day that the European Union and United States may consider further measures against Russia.


After months of upheaval, this much is clear: The West appears to accept that it can do nothing about Russia’s annexation of Crimea, while Moscow seems resigned to Ukraine signing the sweeping trade pact that will bind the country more closely to the European Union.

It was the former Ukrainian president’s decision late last year to back out of the EU deal under pressure from Russia that triggered the current crisis.

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But much uncertainty still surrounds the future of eastern Ukraine, where government troops are battling armed Moscow-backed separatists. The cease-fire has been repeatedly interrupted by fighting since it was implemented last Friday.

At Putin’s request, the Russian parliament rescinded a resolution that had empowered him to intervene militarily in Ukraine. US and European governments welcomed the step but said it was not enough.

‘‘Now we believe it’s critical for President Putin to prove by his actions, not just his words, that he is indeed fully committed to peace,’’ US Secretary of State John Kerry said at a meeting of diplomats from NATO nations in Brussels.


The same message was delivered by the German chancellor and the NATO chief.

Behind the scenes, meanwhile, the leaders of France, Germany, and Ukraine spoke with Putin for more than an hour in a conference call.

The four agreed that a mechanism needs to be set up to oversee the cease-fire, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said.

The Kremlin said that Putin once again called for extending the cease-fire and sitting down for talks. Putin has argued that Ukraine’s demand that the rebels lay down their weapons within a week was unrealistic because they fear reprisals.

The cease-fire is set to expire Friday morning. On Tuesday, however, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned that he may end the truce ahead of time after the rebels used a shoulder-fired missile to shoot down a Ukrainian military helicopter, killing nine servicemen.

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