Russia's Lavrov talks with Ukraine, US, German counterparts
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held separate talks Saturday with his Ukraine, US and German counterparts, the Kremlin announced, as fighting spikes in eastern Ukraine.
During the telephone calls with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Lavrov called for the Ukrainian army "to begin the demilitarisation" of the flashpoint Shyrokine village.
Pro-Moscow Ukrainian rebels have already withdrawn from the strategic area 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the Azov Sea port of Mariupol, the last major town in the region still controlled by the Ukraine government, Lavrov told them.
He also called on his Ukrainian counterpart to "resolve the questions concerning the constitutional reform project," aimed at offering more autonomy to the separatist regions, which Russia dismissed last week as just a parody of its obligations under the Minsk truce agreement.
The Ukrainian army has been fighting pro-Russian militants for more than a year in the country's east in a conflict in which more than 6,500 people have been killed.
In February, the peace deal reached in Minsk with mediation from France and Germany, called for the withdrawal of heavy arms of more than 100mm calibre from the frontline.
Lavrov also underlined Moscow's annoyance that Kiev did not include rebel representatives in its constitutional reform discussions
"They can't just walk away from the framework of the (Minsk) obligations, in particular those concerning the direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk," he stressed during his conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry
The peace accord calls on Kiev to see through a raft of measures to grant a special status to the rebel-controlled areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Meanwhile the fighting continued in eastern Ukraine, with three civilians and a Ukrainian soldier killed in the previous 24 hours.
The Ukrainian army in a statement said "the situation has deteriorated sharply".
Separatist military commander Eduard Basurin announced late Saturday that the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had given orders that the proscribed heavy arms be withdrawn from the frontline areas "as soon as possible," in compliance with the Minsk deal.
© 2015 AFP