MOSCOW — Russia’s foreign minister on Wednesday accused the Ukrainian government of dragging its feet on implementing last year’s cease-fire agreement as Moscow sought to press its point in a new round of high-level diplomacy.
Fighting in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, which has close ties to Russia, has killed more than 9,100 people and left large swaths of land under rebel control. Germany, France and Russia mediated talks between representatives of the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists at talks in Minsk, Belarus, which resulted in a broad cease-fire agreement.
That has largely held, but none of the political elements, including calling a local election, has been implemented.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was hosting German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Moscow, said Kiev’s inaction is the main stumbling block to a peace settlement in the east. Lavrov said Germany had floated the idea of holding an election in the rebel-occupied territories this summer but Kiev said no.
“Minsk-2 cannot be reviewed, and we should resist attempts to undermine it,” Lavrov said.
Kiev insists it can’t hold the vote because it cannot guarantee security for election officials. Rebels in their turn have said they won’t allow Ukrainian right-wing parties to run, which the Ukrainian government says also makes the election impossible.
Steinmeier on Wednesday urged both sides to comply with the partial withdrawal and warned of a possible escalation.
He and Lavrov appeared to be in a jovial mood, with Steinmeier saying they both pledged to “look for ways to overcome the differences that stand in our way to find a solution” for eastern Ukraine.
Steinmeier also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said at the start of the talks that they should discuss “horrible, tragic events in Belgium” along with other issues.
Steinmeier’s meeting with Putin was open and constructive, the German foreign ministry said, adding that security questions in eastern Ukraine and possible ways of making progress on them, as well as peace efforts in Syria, were among the issues discussed.