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Kremlin 'regrets' Ukrainian law recognising Russian occupation

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Moscow (AFP)

The Kremlin on Friday said it "regrets" a new Ukrainian law that formally recognises the conflict in the east of the country as a "temporary Russian occupation."

"We regret this. Of course, Russia will remain committed to the word and spirit of the Minsk accords with other guarantor countries France and Germany, but we regret that such steps only distract us from the desired goal," the Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

The EU-brokered Minsk peace agreement, backed by Moscow and Kiev, was first reached in late 2014 and then re-worked in early 2015 with the help of Germany and France, but is violated almost daily.

Ukraine's parliament on Thursday formally recognised its eastern war as a "temporary Russian occupation" in a vote that outraged Moscow.

"Russia does not agree with this formulation," Peskov said, adding that "Russia is not a side or a party in this conflict."

"This law could influence the regulating of the conflict in the most negative of ways."

The French Foreign Ministry also on Friday warned that "the new law should not call in to question the implementation by Russia and Ukraine of the Minsk agreement".

Both parties should respect the cease-fire and commit themselves to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the spokesman added.

On Thursday the Russian Foreign Ministry said the passing of the Ukrainian law amounted to preparation for war.

"You cannot call this anything but preparation for a new war," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The law defining the ongoing violence between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed insurgents came after nearly four years of fighting that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Kiev and its Western allies have long accused Russia of orchestrating the bloodshed in reprisal for Kiev's decision to pull out of its historic orbit and forge a closer alliance with the European Union.

The Ukrainian legislation also accuses Russia of "aggression" -- a charge the Kremlin denies despite overwhelming evidence of its soldiers and weapons crossing the border into the war zone.

The seemingly symbolic change in the war's legal status in Ukraine came less than a month after the United States greenlighted its first delivery of anti-tank missiles to Kiev.

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