Russia accuses Ukraine of taking slow approach on ceasefire

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accuses Ukraine’s government of taking slow approach on implementing ceasefire agreement

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov listens to a journalist's question during a news conference with Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday accused Ukraine’s government of taking a slow approach on implementing a ceasefire agreement signed last year. 

The February 2015 ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and Pro-Russian rebels failed to completely end the conflict that is entering its third year.

Over 9,000 civilians and soldiers have been killed in the fighting which broke out in April 2014 when Pro-Russian rebels took over parts of Ukraine’s east following Russia’s occupation of the Crimean Peninsula.

The agreement came as Russian pressure forced Germany and France to mediate talks between representatives of the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels at talks in Minsk, Belarus.

Lavrov alleged that Kiev’s inaction is the main stumbling block to a peace settlement in the east, speaking to reporters while hosting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Moscow.

Germany had floated the idea of holding an election in the rebel-occupied territories this summer while Kiev rejected it, Lavrov said.

"Minsk-2 cannot be reviewed, and we should resist attempts to undermine it," Lavrov said.

The Ukranian government defended that the election is impossible since Russian rebels said they will not allow Ukrainian parties to run.

Both sides on Wednesday were urged to comply with the partial withdrawal by Steinmeier, he warned of a possible escalation.

Steinmeier and Lavrov said they both pledged to “look for ways to overcome the differences that stand in our way to find a solution."

Steinmeier’s visit opens US Secretary of State John Kerry’s arriving later for talks on Ukraine and Syria.

A private dinner is to be held with Steinmeier and Kerry late Wednesday before Kerry meets with Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Kerry is to raise concerns about an increase in ceasefire violations, US officials said.

Kerry will also raise the case of Nadiya Savchenko, a female Ukrainian pilot who was controversially sentenced to 22 years in prison in Russia on Tuesday on alleged charges which the US claims to be false.

Savchenko was alleged to being affiliated with the death of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The US has repeatedly called for the political prisoner to be released and did so again on Tuesday.

Ukraine had suggested trading two Russian prisoners for Savchenko while US officials said Kerry would encourage Russia to accept the proposal.

The officials said Kerry will seek clarity from Putin and Lavrov as to where Russia stands on a political transition for Syria, particularly on the future of regime leader Bashar Assad.

TRTWorld, AP