10 Feb 2020 10:13

Kyiv refuses to disengage throughout Donbas at U.S. insistence - Lavrov

MOSCOW. Feb 10 (Interfax) - Ukraine refused to set the task of disengagement throughout the Donbas contact line at the Normandy-format summit in Paris in December 2019 at the United States' insistence, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta published on Monday.

"It is not a big secret but we know that the Ukrainian delegation took its stance at the Normandy-format summit in Paris at the insistence of Washington which very much wants to prevent the Minsk Agreements from being implemented, as well as to prevent the contact line from being safe for both sides. It looks like the keeping of this conflict in a certain controllable stage accommodates the U.S. interests from the angle of its geopolitical aspirations for the post-Soviet space," Lavrov said.

The agreement to disengage forces and hardware throughout the Donbas contact line was reached in the course of preparations for the summit of December 2019, and Ukrainian representatives backed it, he said.

"We regret that the document, which has been prepared and coordinated by assistants to the Normandy-format chiefs of state and foreign ministers, was 'opened' by the Ukrainian delegation, personally President Zelensky, at the very beginning of the meeting, first and foremost, the provisions regarding disengagement of forces and hardware. Those who prepared the summit coordinated the agreement to disengage forces and hardware throughout the contact line (and the Ukrainians signed up for that)," Lavrov said.

Zelensky "said harshly he could not do that and disengagement was possible only in three more populated localities in addition to Petrivske, Zolote, and Stanytsia Luhanska," he said.

"In his [Zelensky's] words, disengagement took over five months in Stanytsia Luhanska, Petrivske, and Zolote, so the process might take 10-15 years in relation to the entire contact line and adjacent populated localities. That is a strange logic. The disengagement may take half a century if the process is stalled in every populated locality," Lavrov said.

"Then Vladimir Putin proposed to write down that the sides would start disengagement in the three additional populated localities but would declare as their goal and would be working to remove forces and hardware of the conflicting sides from the entire contact line. The response was categorically negative," he said.

"Nonetheless, we are confident that further activity of the Contact Group (which is tasked with addressing all technicalities of prisoner swaps and disengagements) will still aim at the complete implementation of all agreements and will not disregard humanitarian and economic matters, which are being ignored by Kyiv the way they should be dealt with in accordance with the Minsk Agreements," Lavrov said.