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Debaltsevo pretext for US to talk new sanctions, exert pressure on Russia -- FM Lavrov

US Vice-President Joseph Biden's statement on possible new sanctions against Russia, if the Minsk accords on a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine are not fulfilled, confirm Washington's unconstructive approach, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.

"We treat this statement as a pronouncement traditional for Joe Biden containing new threats. Probably, he means that the US will demand from Russia to pay the price, including by forcing EU states to toughen their position," Lavrov said.

"Debaltsevo is a pretext and we have signaled the need to settle this problem back on February 11 but we were told that this problem did not exist. But as it turns out, it does exist. That is why, I would treat this as a new confirmation of Washington's unconstructive approach, in this case displayed by the US vice-president," Lavrov said.

On Tuesday, spokesman of the Donetsk People's Republic defense ministry Eduard Basurin told journalists that around 5,000 Ukrainian servicemen were encircled in Debaltsevo. The head of administration of the self-proclaimed Donetsk republic's leader on Wednesday reported that the government forces trapped near Debaltsevo were en masse laying down arms to militias.

Russia urges prompt implementation of Minsk accords on Ukraine

Russia insists that there are no alternatives to ceasefire in the south-east of Ukraine and urges prompt implementation of Minsk accords on the ongoing conflict settlement, Russian Foreign Minister said.

"The ceasefire must be all-embracing, including in the so-called 'Debaltsevo pocket'," Lavrov said. We urge that all provisions of the Minsk accords, including the start of the political process, should be implemented immediately."

Sergey Lavrov hopes that in attempts to achieve a solution of the Debaltsevo affair common sense will prevail.

"I do hope that common sense will prevail and the task of saving the lives of those trapped there will be placed above everything else," Lavrov said. "Many have begun to lay down arms to enjoy humane treatment."

Moscow is concerned over the situation in Debaltsevo and urges stop to all attempts of ceasefire agreement violations, Russian Foreign Minister went on to say.

"There have been and still there are attempts to break through the encirclement inside the Debaltsevo pocket instead of negotiations," Lavrov said following his meeting with South Ossetian Foreign Minister David Sanakoyev.

"We share all concerns over the developments in Debaltsevo and believe that the situation can be eased only by stop using weapons in an attempt to alternate February 15 status quo," the top Russian diplomat said.

According to Lavrov, ceasefire is observed almost in all parts of east Ukraine. The self-defense forces say they are ready to start heavy weaponry withdrawal, Lavrov added. The only exception is Debaltsevo, he noted.

"The main task is still ceasing fire," the Russian Foreign Minister said. "Along almost the whole border of Ukraine the ceasefire is observed, while self-defense forces say they are ready to withdraw weapons," he added.

Fighting continues in Debaltsevo, Lavrov said. "In Minsk, we talked about Ukrainian forces in the encirclement there. We said it is important to discuss how they can leave Debaltsevo. [Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko said there is no encirclement. As a result, we have what we have," he added.

Western politicians should contribute to the resolution of the Ukrainian conflict instead of heating up tensions around the crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov concluded.

"We expect responsible politicians in the West to act in the interests of Ukrainian people and Ukrainian state instead of stirring up tensions and proving their leadership by such statements," he said.

[Source: Itar Tass, News, 18Feb15]

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