Ukraine's president on Tuesday called for new sanctions against Russia over its decision to recognize passports issued by separatist authorities in the east, while the Kremlin accused Ukrainian authorities of denying vital documents to people in the rebel regions.
The Kremlin said its decision is a “humanitarian” move to help residents of the east suffering from Ukraine's blockade, and doesn't amount to recognizing the rebel regions.
Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since April 2014, a conflict that has killed more than 9,800 people.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday denounced Moscow's action as contradicting the 2015 Minsk peace agreement. Speaking at a meeting with EU Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides, Poroshenko called for “resolute action, up to strengthening sanctions.”
The United States and the European Union have hit Russia with sanctions for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
The February 2015 peace agreement brokered by France and Germany has helped reduce fighting in the east, but clashes have continued and provisions for a political settlement have stalled. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the lack of progress.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov argued Tuesday that the decision to recognize passports and other documents issued by separatist authorities in the east was intended to protect the rights of local residents, who have found it impossible to receive documents from Ukraine because of its blockade of the rebel regions.
“The Ukrainian authorities are doing all they can to make life as difficult as possible for the residents of those territories and make it as hard as possible for them to enjoy the most basic rights and freedoms,” Lavrov said. “It's hard and often impossible to exercise those rights without documents.”