Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends an April 22 press conference after a meeting of foreign ministers of the Caspian Sea littoral states in Moscow. (Vasily Maximov / AFP)
MOSCOW — Russia insisted Wednesday that Kiev pull back its troops from eastern Ukraine and accused Washington of distorting an agreement to ease the most serious confrontation between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War.
“The Russian side once again insists on the immediate de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine’s southeast, the pullback of units of the Ukrainian army and the start of a genuine internal Ukrainian dialogue involving all of the country’s regions and political formations,” the foreign ministry said.
“Moscow is extremely surprised by the distorted interpretations by Kiev authorities as well as by our US partners of the contents of a declaration adopted in Geneva on April 17 as a result of a four-way meeting between representatives of Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine.”
The Russian foreign ministry said that while the Geneva accord calls on all “illegal armed units” to lay down arms, Kiev and Washington are turning a blind eye to what Moscow calls continuing provocations by ultra-right militants in Ukraine.
“The Russian side continues to believe that our Western partners are serious when they declare their intention to facilitate a peaceful settlement of the political crisis in Ukraine,” the foreign ministry said.
“Alas, the facts suggest the opposite however. We are still waiting for Kiev, which is responsible for establishing dialogue with Ukraine’s regions, including in the southeast, to fulfill its promises.”
Moscow said it had expected US Vice President Joe Biden, who visited Ukraine this week, to influence the Ukrainian authorities with an eye to ease the crisis.
“However, immediately after his departure from the Ukrainian capital it was announced there that an ‘anti-terrorist operation’ in Ukraine’s eastern regions would resume,” the foreign ministry said.
Earlier Wednesday Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov issued a blunt warning it would respond if its interests were attacked in Ukraine, in a sign Moscow was upping the ante in the crisis.