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Home News Russia says Kiev’s refusal to negotiate with rebels ‘alarming’

Russia says Kiev’s refusal to negotiate with rebels ‘alarming’

Published on 03/07/2015

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday said Ukraine's perceived failure to agree with rebels on implementing a peace deal was "alarming" and urged the West to pressure Kiev.

“The situation is alarming because we’re witnessing a tendency, if you will,” Russia’s top diplomat told reporters.

“Starting with a state coup (Russia’s description of the Maidan protests), the current Kiev authorities have routinely demonstrated their inability to come to an agreement,” Lavrov said after talks with his counterpart from Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s proposed constitutional changes have triggered a surge in tensions between Kiev and Moscow-backed rebels that have been battling government forces since April 2014.

Lavrov said Russia was especially concerned that, in its view, the draft constitution did not honour a “single requirement” of a peace deal brokered by Germany and France in the Belarussian capital Minsk in February.

“Russia is deeply concerned by Kiev’s inability or unwillingness to implement a requirement to agree with Donetsk and Lugansk on the ways of implementing local elections and involving representatives in work on the new constitution,” Lavrov said.

He added that the Kiev authorities were “torpedoing” the peace agreement and refusing to directly negotiate with rebels, urging the West to pressure Ukrainian authorities to honour the deal.

State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin struck a similar note, accusing the West of paying lip service to resolving the crisis.

“Together with the Kiev authorities, the West only mimics the constitutional process in Ukraine, and this only deepens Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis,” he said in the Russian parliament.

Adding to the tensions was Kiev’s announcement that it was suspending purchases of Russian natural gas supplies after EU-mediated talks in Vienna broke down earlier this week.

Russia retaliated by halting all gas supplies to Ukraine on Wednesday.

-‘Not what Minsk calls for’-

In a further twist, top rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko announced plans to hold local elections in October with a view to cementing the separatists’ semi-autonomous status within a united Ukraine, sparking criticism in Kiev and the West.

Germany said the Minsk agreement called for local elections to be conducted under Ukrainian law and the auspices of the OSCE.

“What the separatist proposed yesterday… is of course not what Minsk calls for but something completely different,” Martin Schaefer, spokesman for the German foreign ministry, told reporters.

He said the proposal “satisfies neither the spirit nor the letter of Minsk.”

“The proposal as it has now been made by the separatists can only be met with a rejection from Kiev.”

Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of backing the Russian-speaking rebels with weapons, money and troops.

More than 6,500 people have been killed in the fighting, according to the United Nations, which many see as a underestimate.