Ukraine says building bridges with Trump

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  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States
  • Petro Poroshenko
    Petro Poroshenko
    Ukrainian businessman, oligarch and politician

Kiev (AFP) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko insisted Wednesday he was building bridges with US counterpart Donald Trump amid growing dismay over the unravelling of the latest bid to still fighting in the country's east.

Much of Ukraine's establishment fears that Trump's unexpected rise to power and his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin will come at Kiev's expense as it battles Moscow-backed separatist rebels.

But Poroshenko told a meeting of Ukraine's top brass that a series of high-level contacts including conversations with Trump and a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence had left him optimistic.

"At the moment, I am happy how we are building bridges, and how our dialogue is working out for the best with the US administration," Poroshenko said.

Kiev and its allies accuse Moscow of backing the 34-month war in Ukraine's separatist east to keep the ex-Soviet republic under its thumb -- a charge Russia denies.

The conflict has claimed more than 10,000 lives since April 2014.

- Situation in east 'alarming' -

The Ukrainian leader's reassurance over ties to Washington came as one of Kiev's key European allies expressed concern over the failure of yet another attempt to halt the fighting in the east.

Russia and Ukraine on Saturday announced a fresh truce deal that was meant to come into effect Monday. The warring sides pledged to pull back heavy weapons from the front line in accordance with a stalled 2015 peace plan.

But both Kiev and the rebels have accused each other of carrying on attacks and the withdrawal of the big guns has failed to materialise.

"The truth is as follows: the ceasefire is not holding," German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement. He called the news from east Ukraine "alarming".

"Those who say something on Saturday and several days later don't keep their word are responsible for the failure of the negotiation process," Gabriel said.

Kiev and the insurgents lashed out at each other for failing to make the first move to withdraw weaponry from the front and to halt fire in one of Europe's bloodiest conflicts since the 1990s Balkans wars.

"Any withdrawal means that political tensions in Ukraine rise, and (Poroshenko) is not ready for that yet," rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko told the militias' web site.

The military in Kiev accused the insurgents of using heavy guns and dozens of grenade-launcher attacks overnight.

The rebels claimed to have come under fire from Ukrainian forces nearly 700 times.

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