The United States and Russia have made mutual requests for action to ease tensions in Ukraine. The US has expressed its concern over Russian military moves, while Russia wants the US to rein in Kyiv’s military.
In a telephone call between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday, both officials expressed concerns with regard to the other’s action (or lack of it) in Ukraine.
In a statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry reported that Lavrov had “stressed the need for urgent measures to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, above all to stop military operations against protesters and to put an end to the aggressive activities of the ultranationalist Pravy Sektor [right sector].”
Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have occupied several cities, and Ukraine’s military has clashed with the rebels in an effort to retake the cities.
Kerry, meanwhile, “expressed continued concern that Russia’s provocative troop movements on Ukraine’s border, its support for separatists and its inflammatory rhetoric are undermining stability, security and unity in Ukraine,” according to a State Department official quoted by the AFP news agency.
Russian troops are gathering near the country’s border with Ukraine, and the US and Ukraine made claims that Russian military aircraft entered Ukrainian airspace several times on Friday.
Kerry and Lavrov also discussed a group of OSCE observers sent to Ukraine to help facilitate a reduction in tensions between Kyiv, pro-Russian separatists and Moscow and now being detained in Slovyansk.
OSCE observers still held
Earlier on Saturday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier discussed the tense situation concerning the group of observers with Sergei Lavrov, the Foreign Ministry announced in a statement.
Steinmeier stressed that Moscow must use its influence to secure the group’s “immediate release,” according to the statement. Four of those being held are Germans. The insurgents in the self-declared Donetsk Republic have said the OSCE team will only be released in exchange for rebels who have been detained.
Meanwhile, leaders of the Group of Seven major economies agreed to impose extra sanctions on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine.
According to the US, the sanctions are part of new punitive measures that could be unveiled as early as Monday unless Russia moves fast to defuse the Ukraine crisis.
mz/mkg (AFP, AP, Reuters)