MOSCOW, May 25. /TASS/. Russia and Azerbaijan agree on the need to step up efforts to reach a political settlement to the crisis in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday after talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mamedyarov.
"We have confirmed our appreciation of Azerbaijan’s balanced position on the Ukrainian problem," Lavrov said. "We agree that it is necessary to do our utmost to step up efforts to reach a political settlement to this crisis based on fulfilment of the Minsk agreements, which envisage establishment of a direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk."
Lavrov stressed that Russia was "very concerned about the humanitarian situation in [east Ukraine's] Donbas, social and economic degradation in the region and its de facto blockade announced by the Ukrainian authorities".
He urged the Ukrainian government to fulfil commitments made at February peace talks in Belarus, noting that the Minsk deal also envisaged the lifting of Kiev’s blockade of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The February 12 peace deal struck in the Belarusian capital by leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France called for a ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and people’s militias starting from February 15.
This was to be followed by withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of military engagement by at least 15 kilometres (9 miles), prisoner release and agreement for international observers to monitor the truce.
Based on September’s stillborn Minsk peace protocol, the deal also laid out a road map for a lasting settlement in Ukraine, including local elections and constitutional reform to give the war-torn eastern regions more autonomy.