Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday he would call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to rein in pro-Russian separatists when the two men meet next week and told the Kremlin chief he had “a strong country, a strong army” behind him.
Poroshenko spoke as government forces, despite taking heavy losses themselves, thrust deeper into rebel-held territory in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east and kept the separatists whom they have battled since April on the back foot.
The Ukrainian battlefield successes, after a faltering start in April when government forces were humiliated, have alarmed some Western governments who fear they could box Putin dangerously into a corner with no way out to save face.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to visit Kiev on Saturday to show her support for Poroshenko – but diplomats say she is also bearing a message that he should consider calling a ceasefire so as not to incur a backlash from Putin.
Poroshenko, who will oversee emotion-charged Independence Day celebrations on Sunday in Kiev in which veterans from the eastern front will take part in a military parade, talked tough on Thursday.
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