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Accusations of Russia’s alleged military presence in Ukraine need proof — Russian FM

January 21, 2015, 15:12 UTC+3

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in his annual news conference commented on accusations of Russian involvement in Ukraine, July's Boeing tragedy in Donetsk region and conflict settlement

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MOSCOW, January 21. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that those accusing Russia of sending troops and weapons to the conflict-torn south-eastern Ukraine need to substantiate their accusations with proof.

“We hear a lot about the flow of Russian troops and arms,” Lavrov said speaking at his annual news conference. “And every time I respond that if one speaks with such certainty then one should present some facts. However, no one is either capable or willing to present us with the facts.”

The West repeatedly accused Moscow of its alleged military involvement in the embattled south-eastern Ukraine and imposed a wide range of sanctions in regard to Russia. Moscow dismissed the allegations and answered with retaliatory sanctions against the West last summer. However, speaking last month at his annual news conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that those Russians taking part in combat operations in the southeast of Ukraine were volunteers and not mercenaries.

On the Boeing tragedy in Ukraine

Addressing the issue further Lavrov said that “they are also incapable of providing us with the facts, which our partners, particularly Ukrainian and American, allegedly have, concerning the incident with the Malaysian Boeing last July.”

On July 17, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 passenger airliner on flight MH17 from the Dutch city of Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur crashed in the Donetsk Region in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Most passengers - over 190 people - were Dutch nationals. The aircraft’s crash took place amid combat actions in Ukraine and the West alleges that the plane was shot down by Russia’s military helping militia in the south-east of its ex-Soviet neighbor.

Lavrov said there were neither data provided on the talks with Ukrainian air traffic controllers at the time of the incident nor information obtained from US space satellites.

“Therefore, before asking us, when we would quit doing something, provide us please with the proof that we already did something,” Lavrov added.

On eastern Ukraine conflict settlement

Speaking about the Minsk agreements, Lavrov said that it was a framework document consisting of 12 points, which need to be specified and elaborated.

“The Minsk memorandum was devoted to the elaboration of the task concerning the ceasefire and the pullout of the heavy weaponry from the contact line,” Lavrov said. “This is not an easy task. No wonder the coordination of these issues is still underway.”

The Russian foreign minister said the most important at the moment was to resolve the main issue, which was “to provide security to peaceful citizens.’

“This is why we need the pullout of the heavy weaponry,” Lavrov said. “This is what [Russian] President Putin’s statement addressed to [Ukrainian] President [Petro] Poroshenko was about and we to deal with the issue in a thorough and quick manner.”

“We have already secured agreement from [Ukrainian] militia to draw back the heavy weaponry not from the factual line, but from the line, which Kiev authorities insist upon. We are now waiting for response from the Kiev authorities.”

Lavrov said the Minsk agreements contained other provisions, which the Ukrainian authorities were trying to drag out and protract their detailed discussion.

“This first of all concerns the implementation of obligations regarding a special status of self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics [DPR and LPR] as well as regarding Kiev’s obligations to launch an inclusive multinational dialogue.”

A ceasefire was agreed upon at talks between the parties to the Ukrainian conflict mediated by the OSCE on September 5 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.

Numerous violations of the ceasefire, which took effect the same day, have been reported since.

A memorandum was adopted on September 19 in Minsk by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE. The document outlined the parameters for the implementation of commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine laid down in the Minsk Protocol of September 5.

According to the data provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) last month, over 4,700 people were killed and 10,300 wounded since mid-April last year as a result of armed clashes between Ukrainian troops and local militias in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions during Kiev’s military operation to regain control over the breakaway territories.

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