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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-21

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Ukraine of "grossly breaching" a deal struck last week in Geneva aimed at defusing tensions in the country's separatist east as US Vice President Joe Biden arrived for talks in Kiev.

Biden's visit is aimed at showing support for Kiev's beleaguered pro-Western government, which Russia believes is illegitimate.

"The Geneva accord is not only not being fulfilled, but steps are being taken, primarily by those who seized power in Kiev, that are grossly breaching the agreements reached," Lavrov told a Moscow press conference.

The accord calls for all "illegal armed groups" in east Ukraine to surrender their weapons and halt the occupation of public buildings. But Moscow and Kiev appear to disagree on which armed groups are fomenting the unrest, with Ukraine blaming pro-Russian separatists and Russia blaming Ukrainian "nationalists".

The pro-Kremlin militants who have seized control of administrative buildings in nearly a dozen towns in the region have so far refused to vacate the buildings and disarm as called for by the accord, saying they are not bound by its terms.

The pact has further been undermined by a deadly shootout in Ukraine's restive east on Sunday that left three people dead. The exact details and who was responsible for the incident are still unclear.

Biden is due for talks Monday with US embassy officials in Kiev to "consult on the latest developments in east Ukraine", followed by meetings with the country's interim president, Oleksandr Turchinov, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk and lawmakers on Tuesday. 

Isolating Russia 'impossible'

The White House has warned Moscow of further sanctions if it fails to implement the four-way agreement reached in Geneva with Ukraine, the United States and the European Union. 

But Lavrov said Monday that efforts to cut Moscow off from the international community through sanctions would prove fruitless.

"Attempts to isolate Russia have absolutely no future because isolating Russia from the rest of the world is impossible," he said.

Moscow accuses Ukraine's leaders of using unnecessary force against the separatist "protesters".

President Vladimir Putin has amassed tens of thousands of Russian troops on the border and has said he has a "right" to send forces into his eastern neighbour to protect the rights of eastern Ukraine's many Russian-speakers from Ukrainian nationalists.

Putin signed a bill into law on Monday that makes it easier for native Russian speakers to obtain Russian citizenship.

The United States and its NATO allies have also bolstered their military deployments in Eastern Europe while Washington and Brussels have pledged billions to shore up Ukraine's battered economy.

In Ukraine's east the situation appeared calm Monday, although pro-Russian insurgents remained entrenched in the public buildings they have occupied for over a week.

Putin last week belatedly admitted the Russian military played a role in Crimea, but continues to deny that his army is operating in east Ukraine.

"There was no shooting overnight," Yevgen Gorbik, a rebel wearing camouflage and standing at a barricade in the flashpoint town of Slaviansk, told AFP.

"We will only shoot if attacked," he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-04-21


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