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Lavrov blasts Kiev’s attempts to gain control over Donbass

The Russian top diplomat urges Kiev to implement the Minsk deal

MOSCOW, June 23. /TASS/. Kiev’s attempts to gain control over Donbass before implementing the political provisions of the Minsk Agreements are unlawful as they run contrary to the accords, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the Belarusian media on the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Belarus.

"These attempts are unlawful because the Minsk Agreements have been approved by the United Nations Security Council," the Russian top diplomat pointed out. "They stipulate that the political provisions concerning the amnesty, the special status of Donbass enshrined in the country’s constitution and elections to be held under the OSCE’s control should be implemented before Kiev gains full control over the region," Lavrov explained.

The Russian foreign minister stressed that "the special status, amnesty and elections are meant to guarantee that the will of the people living in the region will be taken into account."

According to Lavrov, "if these political reforms are not implemented, then it will be impossible to ensure the security of the people who currently head some of the areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and who led the protests against the illegitimate coup executed with the assistance of neo-Nazi activists," the Russian foreign minister added.

"What happened next, and what is still happening to those opposing the radical members of the Kiev ruling circles - I mean the events in Odessa and other incidents which haven’t been investigated yet - raise doubts that the Ukrainian authorities will be able to provide security to these people," Lavrov said.

"I have heard no serious talk that the Minsk agreements have exhausted themselves," he said. "There is a lot of trifling talk about that, mostly from Kiev."

According to the Russian top diplomat, practically from the moment of signing, the Ukrainian authorities have been seeking pretexts not to implement them. "First, they were playing up the idea of appealing to the United Nations, which only disrupted the scheme that is based on the OSCE. Then, they began to speak about some armed police mission from the European Union, later on - about the necessity of a United Nations peacekeeping mission, and so on and so forth," he said. "And, nevertheless, we now here President [of Ukraine Pyotr] Poroshenko saying the Minsk agreements are to be fully implemented."

However, Lavrov noted, such statements are subsequently interpreted by Kiev’s representatives in various formats. "And the interpretations is as follows: ‘yes, the Minsk agreements are to be implemented but not in the sequence provided for by these accords. First, we, the Ukrainian authorities must take control over entire Donbass and after that we will implement our liabilities on organizing elections and reflecting this region’s status in the constitution," he said.

Cooperation with US

"There was a two-way US-Russia channel at the level of representatives of the US Department of State and the Russian Presidential Administration. The Americans had similar channels with Paris, Berlin and Kiev," he said.

According to the minister, during the meetings with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow in April and in Washington in May and at a meeting with US President Donald Trump, "while discussing the Ukrainian crisis, (we) confirmed our willingness to revive this two-way channel, if the Trump administration deemed that necessary." "We believe that would be correct, but so far we have not received any specific response to our interest," Lavrov explained.

"Under the Obama administration, when we were asked these questions, we answered that, if our European partners who, together with us, help promote the Normandy format as a means of external assistance to implement the Minsk agreements are ready for that, we have nothing against our US counterparts’ involvement," Russia’s top diplomat said. "However, at that time it was deemed appropriate to cooperate with the Americans in addition to the Normandy format rather than within this mechanism."