Holding Ukraine peace talks with Germany and France after the recent murder of a Donetsk rebel leader would be extremely inappropriate, considering neither has condemned the killing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
“It would be plainly inappropriate to gather the Normandy format, especially since neither Berlin nor Paris condemned the political murder committed in Donetsk,” Lavrov told Russia’s Channel One on Monday.
The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, was killed by an explosion at a café in the city of Donetsk on Friday. His bodyguard was also killed, and 11 other people were injured.
Russia is not leaving the Normandy format completely, Lavrov stressed. Still, he said that none of the EU members of the group have been able to press Kiev to stick to its Minsk deal obligations, which were supposed to bring about peace in Ukraine.
The Normandy format, also known as the Normandy Four, is a contact group made up of France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia. The group was designed to negotiate standing peace in eastern Ukraine, where a civil conflict is still ongoing.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko “continues to dodge his responsibilities,” and the only country that could set him straight is the US, Lavrov said. Direct talks between Kiev and the rebel republics of Donetsk and Lugansk are the only existing format that can yield lasting peace, so Ukrainian authorities should stick to their promise and sit down with them, he stressed.
The neighboring regions of Donetsk and Lugansk have been engaged in an armed conflict with Kiev since the 2014 coup which ousted Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich and installed the current Ukrainian authorities.
Zakharchenko’s Donetsk associates have blamed his death on Ukraine’s security services. The Russian Federal Security agency (FSB), said it strongly suspects their involvement, as well. Ukraine’s security agency (SBU), however, was quick to reject the allegations within hours after the blast, citing infighting in the Donetsk Republic as the likely cause.