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Lavrov accuses Ukraine of presenting 'unacceptable' draft peace deal in breach of Istanbul talks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused Ukrainian negotiators of changing demands since last month's talks in the Turkish city of Istanbul, saying Kiev presented Moscow with an "unacceptable" draft peace deal that evinced a lack of interest in ending the protracted conflict.

Lavrov said on Thursday that Ukraine had a day earlier presented a draft peace agreement to Russia, but the deal deviated from proposals both sides had previously agreed during Turkey-brokered negotiations in Istanbul.

Pointing to the talks held in the Turkish city on March 29, Lavrov said, “The Ukrainians clearly stated that future security guarantees for Ukraine do not apply to Crimea and Sevastopol," but "in yesterday's draft, this clear statement is missing.”

The top Russian diplomat said the Ukrainians wanted the leaders of Russia and Ukraine to discuss Crimea, which rejoined Russia in a 2014 referendum, and the separatist-held region of Sevastopol in eastern Ukraine face-to-face.

Stressing that the Ukrainian proposals were "unacceptable," Lavrov said, "Such inability to agree once again highlights Kiev’s true intentions, its position of drawing out and even undermining the talks by moving away from the understandings reached.”

The Russian foreign minister accused Ukrainian authorities of seeking to derail talks and not wanting to end more than a month of fighting.

"We see this as a manifestation of the fact that the Kiev regime is controlled by Washington and its allies, who are pushing President Volodymyr Zelensky to continue hostilities," Lavrov said.

Lavrov, however, said Russia was keen to continue with the talks and secure its own demands.

"Despite all the provocations, the Russian delegation will continue with the negotiation process, pressing for our own draft agreement that clearly and fully outlines our initial and key positions and requirements," he said.

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met in Istanbul last month, but there have been few signs of the conflict abating on the ground.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced a “special military operation” on February 24 to demilitarize Donetsk and Luhansk, largely populated by ethnic Russians, in eastern Ukraine.

The United States and its European allies have labeled the military operation as “Putin’s land grab,” imposing unprecedented sanctions on Moscow, which stresses that it will halt the operation instantly if Kiev meets Russia’s list of demands, including never applying to join NATO.


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