Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Wednesday that his government will consider the imposition of martial law throughout the nation if fighting continues to escalate between Ukraine’s military forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels. The declaration came just hours before Poroshenko was slated to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders from Germany and France at a peace summit in Minsk, Belarus.
“I, the government and the parliament are ready to take the decision to introduce martial law in all the territories of Ukraine,” said Poroshenko at a government meeting, according to the Guardian. “We are for peace … [but] our country needs to be defended and we will do that to the end.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande will attempt to broker a renewed ceasefire between Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels, who have repeatedly violated similar agreements over the past few months. Merkel, Hollande and Poroshenko were expected to press Putin to cease his alleged direct and operational support of the rebels' efforts in Ukraine.
The peace talks present a mere “glimmer of hope,” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “It is uncertain whether an outcome can be reached, but despite all the uncertainty, it is worth trying in the interest of the suffering people in eastern Ukraine.”
But the likelihood of a deal for peace lessened Tuesday, as Ukraine accused rebels of killing 19 government soldiers in their bid to seize the key railway hub of Debaltseve, according to Reuters. A separate report held that at least 50 people died in the fighting in Ukraine in the last day.
U.S. President Barack Obama warned Putin of consequences if fighting continues in Ukraine and said the United States could send weapons to arm Ukraine. However, that decision will not be made until after Wednesday’s peace summit, according to the Wall Street Journal. “If Russia continues its aggressive actions in Ukraine, including by sending troops, weapons and financing to support the separatists, the costs for Russia will rise,” the White House said in a statement.