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OTTAWA, April 25. /TASS/. Sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis will remain in force until Russia fully adheres to the Minsk agreements, US Secretary of State John Kerry said after a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in Canada’s Iqaluit answering questions from journalists.
Kerry said Russia’s alleged desire to have sanctions lifted remains unachievable because the Minsk agreements have not been implemented in full.
He added that he had discussed the Ukrainian issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week. The talk was in particular about Russian humanitarian convoys, the work of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and pullout of heavy armaments from the disengagement line by the conflicting sides.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in hostilities in the southeast of Ukraine.
Lavrov recently called absurd US threats of toughening anti-Russian sanctions for alleged non-implementation of the Minsk deals.
"Now our American and European partners say: ‘if the Minsk agreements are implemented, we will lift sanctions from Russia then,’" Lavrov said.
"We have repeatedly said that we are not asking anyone to cancel the sanctions, let them decide on their own. They imposed the sanctions for absolutely far-fetched reasons. It’s on their conscience," he said.
"Just feel the logic. They say: ‘if the Minsk agreements are implemented, then sanctions will be lifted, and if they are not implemented, then Russia should be punished more and more,’" Lavrov said.
"If we look at who is implementing and who is not implementing the Minsk agreements, then it will become clear that Kiev is the main culprit of the slowdown of the Minsk process now," he said.
Russian officials and companies came under the first batch of Western sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Russia incorporated Crimea in mid-March 2014 after the February 2014 coup in Ukraine.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
The West announced new, sectoral, restrictions against Russia in late July 2014, in particular, for what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests in Ukraine’s southeast.
In response, Russia imposed on August 6, 2014 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Norway.
New large-scale punitive measures against Russia followed in September and December 2014.
Russia has constantly dismissed accusations of "annexing" Crimea, because Crimea reunified with Russia voluntarily after a referendum, as well as allegations that Moscow could in any way be involved in hostilities in the southeast of Ukraine.
Clashes between Ukrainian troops and local militias in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions during Kiev’s military operation, conducted since mid-April 2014, to regain control over parts of the breakaway territories, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People's republics, have left thousands dead and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee Ukraine’s embattled east.
The parties to the Ukrainian conflict mediated by the OSCE agreed on a ceasefire at talks in September 2014 in the Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.
The ceasefire has reportedly been numerously violated since. There have been several meetings of the Trilateral Contact Group on east Ukrainian settlement comprising representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE and of the Normandy Four (Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany) aimed at finding ways to diplomatically and politically settle the intra-Ukrainian conflict.