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Russia urges France, Germany to prevent Ukrainian 'provocations'

Russia's top diplomat has asked for help from Europe in ensuring lasting peace in Ukraine. Sergei Lavrov has also criticized the idea of a Ukrainian vote in the Donbass region.

Russia called on France and Germany on Saturday to prevent Kyiv from inciting violence in eastern Ukraine as a means of encouraging the United States to send the government lethal weapons. In an interview with state television, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was concerned that the Ukrainian government might stage "provocations," in order to sway Washington.

The United States has been debating whether to send military aid to Kyiv.

"Provocateurs in Kyiv ... could try to 'whip something up' in the expectation that this will influence the world public and weapons will flow into Ukraine," he told the news Vesti program, adding "I am convinced that Berlin and Paris, as the most important players ... should prevent such a turn of events."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande helped mediate a peace deal between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels in the Belarusian capital Minsk last month, but the ceasefire remains fragile and both sides have accused the other of repeatedly breaking the truce.

Lavrov also repeated Moscow's opposition to Ukraine's call for a UN peacekeeping force in the east, something the EU is also wary of.

Ukraine-led vote "nonsense"

Russia's top diplomat also addressed a Ukrainian plan to hold a vote in the embattled Donbass region over whether the area should be given a "special status" with more autonomy. Lavrov said any such election carried out on Kyiv's terms was "nonsense."

He pointed the Minsk agreement, which he said stipulates special rights for the conflict areas around Donetsk and Luhansk. The foreign minister called on Kyiv to respect the region's special status immediately and warned the government not to try to take the region back by force.

"The public messages from the Ukrainian leadership are not sowing optimism," Lavrov said in the television interview.

The Ukrainian parliament refers to the area as "occupied" and says it will only respect a special status in the residents of the region vote for it.

es/sms (dpa, Reuters)

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