Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia Urges Expediency in Ukraine Peace Talks


FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, speaks with Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich after holding his traditional start-of-year press conference in Moscow, Jan. 23, 2013.

Russia is sparing no effort to convene another round of peace talks on the conflict in east Ukraine, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday, criticizing Kyiv's reluctance to do so.

Kyiv's envoy to the talks, which also bring together Moscow, pro-Russian separatists and the OSCE European watchdog, said on Wednesday that any fresh meeting was not viable as long as the rebels do not stop firing completely.

In September, Russia, Ukraine and separatist leaders last met in the Belarussian capital Minsk under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) auspices and mapped out a 12-point peace plan including a call for an immediate cease-fire.

But hundreds of Ukrainian troops, civilians and rebels have been killed since in unabated fighting.

More than 4,300 people have been killed in the conflict, which began after Ukraine's Russian-backed president was toppled by street protests in February.

The next round of Minsk talks was planned for this week.

“Russia will dedicate the maximum effort to having a meeting of this group organized as soon as possible and bringing about positive results for further steps towards carrying out the Minsk agreements,” Lukashevich told a news conference.

Lukashevich said he was “puzzled” by the Kyiv envoy's comments, and that the separatists were very interested in holding the talks. He blamed Kyiv for scrapping a teleconference on Wednesday to prepare for the meeting.

The Russian spokesman said the new round of talks should focus on agreeing a demarcation line between the rival sides in east Ukraine and an exchange of prisoners.

Ukraine soldiers killed

Meanwhile, three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight wounded in attacks by pro-Russian separatists in the past 24 hours, a military spokesman said on Thursday, further marring a truce that began with a “Day of Silence” on Tuesday.

Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said government forces had come under attack from separatist shells 22 times in the past 24 hours, though the army itself was still observing Tuesday's “silence regime.”

The renewed violence in Ukraine's east, where separatists have broken with the pro-Western government in Kyiv and set up "people's republics," further clouded prospects for a resumption of peace talks to end eight months of conflict.

The West has accused Russia of supporting the rebels with arms and of sending troops to destabilize Ukraine and stall its drive towards the European Union. Russia said it is not involved in the armed conflict, a position Lukashevich reiterated on Thursday.