Russia‘s foreign minister says his country will cooperate on Ukraine but won't accept unilateral demands. The US secretary of state has accused Russia of engaging in "distraction, deception and destabilization."
On Friday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of distorting an agreement designed to defuse the separatist standoff in eastern Ukraine, especially the city of Donetsk, which has been compared by some to a potential civil war. Lavrov also directly addressed comments made Thursday by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who threatened fresh sanctions against his country.
"Russia will steadfastly assist in de-escalating the conflict on the basis of the Geneva compromise, but I want to stress there cannot be any one-sided demands that are being presented to us," Lavrov told a diplomats' meeting in Moscow, according to Russian news agencies.
Speaking in Washington Thursday, Kerry had said that Ukraine's interim authorities were making concessions as a result of talks held in Geneva last week, listing pledges announced by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. These included promises of "comprehensive constitutional reform that will strengthen the powers of the regions" and a vow to protect the status of the Russian language.
Kerry spoke after Russia resumed military maneuvers near the border. On Friday, Yatsenyuk said its eastern neighbor wanted to start a new world war by occupying Ukraine "militarily and politically."
"Attempts at military conflict in Ukraine will lead to a military conflict in Europe," Yatsenyuk told Ukraine's interim Cabinet on Friday in remarks broadcast live. "The world has not yet forgotten World War II, but Russia already wants to start World War III."
'Only a preview'
On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with President Vladimir Putin. Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said that Russia had done nothing to hold up its end of the Geneva accords.
"In the phone call, she expressed her great concern over the tense situation in eastern Ukraine and said she expects Russia's government to express its commitment to the Geneva agreement and to cooperate in its implementation," Seibert told reporters.
Late Thursday, Kerry also called the sanctions already imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union "only a preview of how the world will respond if Russia continues to escalate what they had promised to de-escalate." Kerry added that Russia had refused to take "a single concrete step" to implement the Geneva accord, which calls for separatists to vacate occupied public buildings and squares in Ukraine and lay down their weapons. He also said that Russia had "put its faith in distraction, deception and destabilization."
Lavrov said he would talk to Kerry over the phone later on Friday. However, he also repeated his accusation that the United States and European Union had meddled in Ukraine's internal affairs.
"The West wants to seize Ukraine solely for its geopolitical ambitions and not because of the interests of the Ukrainian people," Lavrov said Friday.
mkg/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)