Accuses Ukraine of flagrantly violating Geneva peace accord

Russia has accused Ukrainian authorities of “flagrantly” violating the Geneva peace accord and vowed to “thwart” attempts to unleash civil conflict in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeast.

“Those who seized power in Kiev are taking steps that flagrantly violate the Geneva agreement,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“The authorities are doing nothing, not even lifting a finger, to address the root causes behind this deep internal crisis in Ukraine.”

Mr. Lavrov denounced as “unacceptable” Kiev’s claims that the Geneva call for all irregulars to disarm and vacate seized building did not apply to armed neo-Nazi militants of the Right Sector, who still occupy government offices in Kiev.

Referring to the “outrageous” attack by extremists on unarmed protesters near Sloviansk on Sunday, in which six people were killed, Mr. Lavrov said that the authorities in Kiev “cannot and maybe do not want to control the extremists.”

On Sunday police pulled out the bodies of two pro-Russian protesters from a river in Sloviansk.

The city’s “people’s mayor” Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, said the men had been tortured and stabbed to death by members of the Right Sector, who hours earlier had attacked a militia road block outside Sloviansk.

The protesters have refused to disarm till Kiev pulls back troops and paramilitary radicals from Ukraine’s southeast and agrees to a referendum on the region’s greater autonomy from the central government.

Mr. Lavrov’s broadside came as U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev in a high-profile gesture of support for Ukraine’s pro-Western government.

“We are extremely concerned that instead of recognising their responsibility for what is happening [in eastern Ukraine], the Kiev authorities and their patrons, those who have brought them to power — above all the U.S. and Western European countries, are going out of the way to blame Russia,” Mr. Lavrov said.

‘In a tight spot’

The Russian Foreign Minister hinted that Russia may have to react to appeals for help from pro-Russian protesters in Ukraine’s southeast.

Conceding that these appeals “put us in a tight spot,” Mr. Lavrov nevertheless stated that Russia would not let Ukraine slip into civil war.

“Those who are deliberately pushing for a civil war, apparently in an attempt to start a big, serious bloody conflict, are pursuing a criminal policy. We will not only condemn this policy but will also thwart it.”

Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych has called for “immediate removal” of the Ukrainian military from eastern Ukraine and “immediate launch of peaceful dialogue” with the eastern leaders.

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