Kiev says it is bracing itself for a Russian-backed attack on the government-held port of Mariupol, on the Black Sea.
As Germany and France on Monday called for the implementation of the Minsk peace plan for Ukraine, urging both Moscow and Kiev to slove the conflict, the Ukrainian military and intelligence services announced they are are preparing for a possible Russian amphibious landing near Mariupol.
The Ukrainian defence ministry announced that “the 9th Separate Motorized Rifle Regiment from in the city of Novoazovsk has been enhanced by 1st Army Corps units, including the 810th Separate Marine Brigade of the Coastal Defense Troops of the Russian Federation’s Black Sea Fleet.”
The Ukrainian intelligence service also reports that the command of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation took measures “to ‘legalize’ the presence of Russian Marines in that area and to conceal the fact that the amphibious operation is being prepared.”
The leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic Alexander Zakharchenko, has repeatedly said that Mariupol is a designated target, as it would give his separatist region an access to naval facilities that could help sending out coal and other products his Russian-backed cannot sell now. This would also ensure a land contact with the isolated Crimea.
Meanwhile, Germany and France urged both Moscow and Kiev to implement the Minsk peace plan for Ukraine.
“We need the support from the Russian side to implement this Minsk deal and convince separatists to go along,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a news conference in Berlin with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault, shortly before flying to Kiev for political talks.
“But we also need Ukraine’s domestic policy, especially in light of the turbulences of the last weeks and calls for the prime minister to step down,” Steinmeier added.
Steinmeier and Ayrault both urged the Ukrainian government to press ahead with political reforms such as agreeing on a new election law and special rights for regions.