As Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko were scheduled to meet in Paris Friday to discuss a resolution to the eastern Ukraine conflict, international monitors said they had spotted a new deadly Russian weapons system in the war zone for the first time, Reuters reported. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said they had seen a mobile TOS-1 Buratino weapons system.
The powerful weapons system has the capability to destroy several city blocks with warheads that “spread a flammable liquid around a target and then ignite it,” Reuters reported. Experts said Russia was the only country that produces this kind of weapons system.
Russia has continued to deny its military involvement in Ukraine. Russia annexed the peninsula of Crimea in March 2014, triggering economic sanctions from the U.S. and EU on Russian businesses and powerful individuals. In the spring of 2014, conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine pitting the Kiev government's forces against Russian-backed separatists. The conflict has taken the lives of more than 8,000 people and displaced some 1.4 million people, according to the United Nations.
The Minsk II agreement signed in February has failed to put an end to the conflict. Putin and Poroshenko were joined by French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris Friday and were expected to discuss ways to implement the Minsk agreement.
Attention has rapidly shifted away from the conflict in Ukraine following the start of Russian airstrikes in Syria Wednesday. Several governments, including Germany and France, issued a statement Friday against Russia’s actions in Syria.
“These military actions constitute a further escalation and will only fuel more extremism and radicalization,” the statement said.
Experts worry that by entering into the conflict in Syria, Putin has created a trickier situation for world leaders to resolve the war in Ukraine.
“Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go to its resolution,” Putin said before arriving in Paris. “Yet there are things inspiring confidence that this crisis can be overcome.”