Ukraine’s leaders believe Russia is preparing a broad attack on their country, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday as he returned from a summit in Kiev that coincided with fresh violence in Ukraine’s east.
In an interview with a small group of reporters on his flight back from the Ukrainian capital, Mr. Juncker said he had advised the country’s President Petro Poroshenko to ease tensions by avoiding comments on a possible bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. His advice, he acknowledged, received short shrift.
Mr. Juncker said he had no specific information that backed up Kiev’s concerns and cautioned against allowing “self-fulfilling prophecies” to take hold.
In the last couple of days, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has warned of an uptick in violence in eastern Ukraine, where a Feb. 12 cease-fire, signed in the Belarus city of Minsk, was supposed to bring fighting with pro-Russian separatists to an end.
The OSCE said late Sunday the heaviest shelling in months had taken place in a town on the outskirts of government-held Mariupol. In a report Tuesday, the group cited heavy fighting around Donetsk airport. The U.S. State Department warned last week of a Russian arms buildup in and around eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies it is actively supporting or arming the rebels.
Mr. Juncker said that Mr. Poroshenko and his colleagues had expressed real fears on Monday about Russia’s next steps.
“But they were explaining in the more private meetings we had, they are highly alerted about Russia—more alerted than I thought they would be,” he said. “Because they are considering that Russia is preparing a broad attack on the Ukrainian territory.”
Mr. Juncker, who became commission chief on Nov. 1, held long private talks with Mr. Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Monday evening following the summit.
Read more: http://www.wsj.com/articles/ukraine-leaders-fear-broad-russian-attack-says-eus-juncker-1430239403