MOSCOW, August 17. /TASS/. Russia is concerned about the developments in Ukraine, which are reminiscent of Kiev’s preparation for hostilities, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday following talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
"As for the situation with the implementation of the Minsk agreements of February 12, we are really very much concerned about the current state of affairs," he noted. "I regularly discuss the issue with my colleagues. The other day I spoke with [US Secretary of State] John Kerry and [German Foreign Minister] Frank-Walter Steinmeier. We also conveyed the appropriate assessments to Paris as another country, which, along with Germany and Russia, is a guarantor of the Minsk agreements."
"The situation at the frontlines is alarming," the minister went on to say. "Unfortunately, one may already talk not about the line of contact, but in actual fact about the frontline. Talks were under way for a long time in response to calls from the ‘Normandy Four’ to demilitarize Shirokino and withdraw weapons with caliber under 100 mm to a distance of 15 kilometers on each side. The parties could not agree on the issue for a long time because of Kiev’s changing stance. Then the militias took some unilateral steps, withdrawing all their units from Shirokino and pulling back weapons to a distance of 3 kilometers. We hoped that such a goodwill gesture would prompt similar steps by the Ukrainian armed forces, but this did not happen. Combatants of the Azov volunteer battalion, which were withdrawn from the area, were immediately replaced by the units of the regular Ukrainian Armed Forces. There is information that the marines appeared there as well, which also gives food for thought."
According to the minister, the agreement on withdrawal of weaponry from the line of contact was not signed at the Contact Group meeting, because the Ukrainian side at the last moment changed its stance abandoning the previous agreements. "We are concerned about the recent developments, which strongly resemble preparations for hostilities," Lavrov said. "That was the way it happened last August, when the Ukrainian army was ordered to launch an offensive, that was the way it happened in January, when there was another attempt to resolve the situation by force."
According to Lavrov, Moscow hopes that the meetings of Contact Group and its sub-groups scheduled for next week will change the worrisome situation in Ukraine and help establish direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk.
Lavrov stressed that direct talks between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk "are the essence of all agreements that were made in Minsk." "We will definitely not move anywhere without this. There is Contact Group, its four sub-groups, in the framework of which all work should be done on overcoming obstacles on the way of implementing the package of measures from February 12," he added.
The foreign minister noted that "the Ukrainian side is always trying to avoid such contacts or impose an approach, according to which all issues should be solved without Donetsk and Luhansk, and they should just informed after the decision is made," Lavrov said. "All this evokes very troublesome thoughts. I hope that the meetings of Contact Group and its sub-groups planned for next week will somehow change this tendency of Kiev’s refusal of direct dialogue. And together with our partners from the ‘Normandy format’, together with American colleagues who assured us that they sincerely want to see the full implementation of Minsk-2, we will be able to help establish such dialogue," he concluded.