Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on situation in Ukraine at a joint news conference following talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Sochi, May 12, 2015

Лавров

The Ukrainian crisis was, of course, among the key issues we discussed. Russia and the United States hold different opinions on the origins and development of this crisis. But we are unanimous in our beliefs that it can only be solved peacefully through the full and comprehensive implementation of the Minsk Agreements, including direct dialogue between Kiev, Lugansk, and Donetsk on all aspects of the Package of Measures agreed upon in Minsk on February 12 of this year. They include strict compliance with ceasefire conditions, the withdrawal of weapons, constitutional reform that takes into consideration the opinion of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, local elections, and a solution for the economic issues that have been compounded by the regions’ blockade by Kiev. In short, all provisions of the February 12 Minsk Agreements without exception must be implemented. We have also agreed that the United States and Russia would use their influence on the conflicting parties to consistently and firmly urge them to coordinate their efforts in implementing everything that was agreed upon in Minsk.

Question (addressed to both ministers): Russia and the United States often accuse each other of spreading misinformation about Ukraine and ceasefire violations. What is really happening? Are the Minsk Agreements being violated by one side or both? What can be done to ensure respect for the Minsk Agreements?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after John Kerry): I agree with US Secretary of State John Kerry that violations of the ceasefire regime continue to happen on both sides (sometimes more on one side, while sometimes on the other). There are also violations of the agreement on the pullback of heavy weapons. Today we have operated with general criterion – the reports submitted by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, which on the whole performs its work professionally, despite the fact that Ukrainian officials periodically make public statements accusing the Mission of bias. This behaviour is inadequate for implementing the Minsk Agreements. We hope that the Ukrainian authorities will draw the relevant conclusions from the OSCE leaders’ appeals concerning these sorts of unfounded assertions.

There is yet another mechanism that has been created at the request of Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko. This is the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination that monitors the implementation of the ceasefire and heavy equipment pullback terms. There are several dozen Ukrainian and Russian officers on its staff who have organised decent interaction between themselves and, recently, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. They have good working relations and mutual understanding on the personal level. This is also a very promising mechanism for tracking violations that all of us would like to reduce and – ideally – eliminate.

John Kerry mentioned the situation on different stretches of the line of contact. We would prefer it to be a line of disengagement. Where the much-talked-about Shirokino is concerned, several documents were drafted during the course of preparations for the May 6 Minsk meeting of the Contact Group and its working subgroups: one is related to demilitarising the Shirokino area. Another has been drafted on Russia’s initiative and contains a proposal to amend the Minsk Agreements with an accord on withdrawing not only heavy weapons of over 100 mm caliber, but also tanks and armaments of less than 100 mm caliber, including mortars. The representatives of Lugansk and Donetsk, Russia’s representatives in the Contact Group and, as I understand, the OSCE representatives, were ready to sign these documents, but, for some reason, this didn’t happen. It has been arranged to submit these documents for consideration to the working subgroup on security, which is scheduled to hold a meeting later this week. If they manage to sign these documents and begin their implementation, this will reduce the ceasefire violation risks considerably and make it possible to more strictly supervise compliance with the requirements regarding the withdrawal of heavy weapons.

Question: The fact that the US Administration has leverage over the current authorities in Kiev is common knowledge. You said that you had agreed with the Secretary of State to use this leverage. In what format could this be done to bring about a settlement of the Ukraine crisis?

Sergey Lavrov: I share what Secretary of State John Kerry has said regarding the harmfulness of any attempts to revert to a strong-arm scenario.

To answer your question, I would like to reiterate that the need to fully implement the Minsk Agreements is indisputable. There is a complete understanding between Russia and the United States on this issue. It is true that today we agreed to do everything we could to breathe new life into this process and, if possible, accelerate it.

As for specific formats that could be employed in this situation, all I can say is that a number of countries are in contact with Kiev and the representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics. Today we agreed to hammer the same message home in all meetings with anyone who the implementation of any aspect of the Minsk Agreements depends on; the provisions of the February 12 document are to be implemented in good faith and rigorously. Methods and forms may differ. We are well aware of the diplomatic mechanisms and will put them to use.