The United States and Europe on Thursday accused Russia of blocking any solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The remarks came during a UN Security Council video conference convened by Moscow to mark the sixth anniversary of the so-called Minsk II accords, agreed in February 2015 to end the war in the Donbass region.
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“Russia must immediately cease its aggression in eastern Ukraine and end its occupation of Crimea,” said US diplomat Rodney Hunter.
“We call on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, cease its support for its proxies and other armed groups and implement all of the commitments it made under the Minsk agreements.”
A joint declaration condemning ongoing instability in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions was issued by European members of the Security Council, as well as Germany, which along with France co-sponsored the Minsk accords between Moscow and Kyiv.
“By the use of force against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, Russia is clearly violating fundamental principles of international law,” the declaration states.
“We again call on the Russian Federation to immediately stop fueling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs, and we remain deeply concerned about the presence of Russian military equipment and personnel in the non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine.”
Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia rejected the Western condemnation and accused Ukraine of not implementing Minsk accord measures, with backing from the French and German “protectors.”
He also accused Kyiv of “total indifference” to Donbass residents, adding that Germany and France have become “accomplices of the crimes” against the people in the region.
“Those who only back one side in the domestic Ukrainian conflict and play along with its sickly fantasies about ‘Russian aggression’ despite facts cannot call themselves mediators,” the Russian news agency, TASS, quoted Nebenzia as saying.
"European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s disastrous recent visit to Moscow has sparked a crisis in Russia-EU relations that could end up being to Ukraine’s advantage," @GoncharenkoUa writes. https://t.co/fyZwZhztpD
— Atlantic Council (@AtlanticCouncil) February 12, 2021
His German counterpart Christoph Heusgen, who took part in the Minsk negotiations under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, said the Russian ambassador failed to mention Moscow’s shortcomings on removing heavy weapons under the accords.
“Until today, the Russian heavy weapons have not been withdrawn from the line of command and control in violation of the Minsk agreements,” Heusgen said.
Without access to the border between Ukraine and Russia, an area that is beyond the control of Kyiv, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission to the region “cannot do its job,” Heusgen added.
“Therefore Russia can, day after day, ship soldiers and armament into Luhansk and Donetsk,” he said.
France’s ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Riviere, called Russia’s statements against France and Germany “unfounded”.
Rosemary DiCarlo, the under-secretary-general for political and peace-building affairs, said until a sustainable political solution is found, the situation on the ground will remain “fragile.”
“The risk of backsliding is real if negotiations become deadlocked,” she said.
“We are deeply concerned by the increase in security incidents in several hotspots along the contact line in recent months. This dangerous trend needs to be quickly reversed.”
Ukraine has been fighting separatists backed by Russia in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Donbass since 2014 following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
Since then, more than 13,000 people have died and nearly 1.5 million have been displaced.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms to support the separatists, claims Moscow denies.