MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia on Thursday called Western threats of fresh sanctions against Moscow evidence that Washington and Brussels are not interested in the success of a troubled truce in Ukraine.
“Behind these calls lies the unwillingness of these figures, these relevant countries, the United States, the European Union, to seek the implementation of what was agreed in Minsk on February 12,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, referring to a Ukraine truce brokered by France and Germany.
“They are trying to whip up hysterical sentiment, to deflect attention from the need to follow the Minsk agreement,” he said in televised remarks.
Russia’s top diplomat accused the West of putting forward “laughable demands” concerning the enforcement of the truce.
“Everyone understands perfectly well that there are no ideal truces and ideal ceasefires,” he said, noting the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had reported less fighting in eastern Ukraine.
“After all, the truce is producing results,” he said. “It is in the interests of those who want to scupper the Minsk agreements to offer the opposite view, to say that the truce is not working.”
For Russia, he added, the most important thing was to ensure the settlement of the Ukraine crisis, not to curry favour with the West.
“The most important thing is not to appease certain Western countries or Western figures who threaten us with sanctions,” Lavrov said, urging Kiev to implement the long-mooted constitutional reform.
The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine showed some signs of taking hold this week although there was still no confirmation from the OSCE of a pull-back of heavy weapons from the frontline, a key plank of the truce.
Russia and the pro-Russian rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine have come under withering criticism in Western capitals for the separatist assault to capture the strategic town of Debaltseve immediately after the Minsk deal had been signed.
The separatists are also accused of building up forces near the port city of Mariupol.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said late last week that new “serious sanctions” against Russia were being considered.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has urged the EU to look at tougher sanctions against Moscow if the truce falls apart, saying excluding Russia from the SWIFT banking system should be an option.