BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union called Friday on Moscow to “assume its responsibility” in ending the separatist war in Ukraine.
“Time is running out in eastern Ukraine where the escalation of fighting has caused far too many civilian as well as military casualties,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.
Mogherini said the deaths of eight civilians in the shelling of a bus in rebel-held Donetsk illustrated the urgency of halting the violence.
Hours before her statement, the pro-Russian separatists announced they would follow up their capture of Donetsk’s ruined international airport from Ukrainian government forces with a wider offensive to win more territory.
“Those responsible for the recent escalation must now show that they are serious about their commitment to a political settlement,” Mogherini said, calling for withdrawal of heavy weapons from the frontlines.
“We call notably on Russia to fully assume its responsibility. Public statements distorting the reality on the ground, inciting to hatred and further violence will not lead to the badly needed de-escalation,” she said.
Russia denies arming or fighting alongside the rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The Ukrainian and Western governments say Moscow backs the rebels with direct military aid, an accusation supported by multiple sightings of sophisticated Russian-issue military hardware, usually unmarked.
Mogherini called for implementation of the September Minsk accord that ordered withdrawal of heavy weapons and a truce. She also lashed out at the parading of wounded Ukrainian prisoners in Donetsk as a violation of humanitarian law.
She did not, however, mention the future of current EU sanctions imposed against Russia over its policies in eastern Ukraine and earlier annexation of the country’s Crimea province.