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US presence in Ukraine against Minsk deal: Russia

A Ukrainian serviceman stands on the position of Ukrainian forces near Troitske village in the Lugansk region on August 20, 2015. ©AFP

The Russian Foreign Ministry says the deployment of US troops in Ukraine to train government forces is in violation of the Minsk agreement aimed at ending the crisis in Ukraine.

“US soldiers are firmly entrenched in Ukraine, which constitutes a flagrant violation of Article 10 of the February 12 Minsk Agreement,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing in the Russian capital, Moscow, on Thursday.

Article 10 of the agreement stipulates the pullout of all foreign-armed formations, military equipment and mercenaries from Ukraine.

In April, about 300 US troops from the US 173rd Airborne Brigade for Operation Fearless Guardian arrived in Ukraine’s western city of Yavoriv to train members of the Ukrainian National Guard in their fight against pro-Russia forces in Ukraine's eastern provinces.

The US move came despite the truce deal, dubbed Minsk II, that Ukraine’s warring sides reached at a summit attended by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk on February 11 and 12. The agreement introduced measures such as a ceasefire, which officially went into effect on February 15, the pullout of heavy weapons, and constitutional reforms in Ukraine by the end of the year.

The shaky deal has, however, failed to end the deadly violence in the mainly Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine, with both sides trading accusations of breaching the ceasefire agreement.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also objected to the US move during a phone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry on April 22, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“Lavrov drew [Kerry's] attention to the fact that the arrival of [US] soldiers… indicates that Kiev has violated its commitments to withdraw all foreign units, military hardware and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine,” the ministry said at the time.

Ukraine’s east has witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Russian forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in April last year to silence the pro-Russians there.

According to UN figures, about 7,000 people have so far been killed in the conflict.

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