Kiev should stop its “punitive” anti-terrorist operation in southeastern Ukraine, as dialogue with the opposition and activists is impossible amid a “thunder of cannons and artillery fire,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.
“Instead of giving those people a helping hand, inviting them to the negotiating table, and agreeing on how to live in the country, the military operation is going on,” Sergey Lavrov told Russia's TVC television channel.
Recalling newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s vows to support “dialogue and de-escalation,” as well as Kiev’s interactions with the OSCE, Lavrov stressed that it is simply “not enough.”
“It’s important that those contacts are established directly with the people who want to protect their rights in the southeast of Ukraine,” the foreign minister said. “Naturally, this dialogue is impossible amid a thunder of cannons and artillery fire, and military aviation strikes.”
Hence, “the number one task is to stop the punitive operation,” Lavrov said.
“Of course, the first step should be the end of all army use against the civilian population and then to establish a dialogue between all the regions of Ukraine, for them to come to an agreement about the ways to de-centralize power, and ways to allow the citizens in each region to elect their governors; to work, to live, and to raise their children in the language they want, and leave some part of the taxes for themselves (as opposed to sending it all to the central government),” he said.
Such dialogue should be based on the Geneva Statement of April 17, 2014, and the roadmap that was developed by the Swiss representatives of the OSCE at the beginning of May.
Собравшиеся на митинг в Донецке требуют защитить детей Донбасса от украинской армии pic.twitter.com/PbgEvLjC09— Донецкая Республика (@dnrpress) June 1, 2014
However, despite his pledges, President Petro Poroshenko “made statements that contradict the attitude towards dialogue.”
“He said...in particular, that the military operation should be finished with a victory over ‘separatists,' ‘terrorists’, etc., and that there won’t be any talking with them,” Lavrov recalled. “It’s just evil. How can one brand as terrorists the people who are protecting their homes and towns from the armed forces - the army, the National Guard, which was largely formed from the Right Sector and is simply made of criminals?”
Lavrov also pointed to the Verkovna Rada adopting an amnesty law that “listed a huge number” of people to be pardoned.
“According to some reports, 15,000 were set free. However, behind the scenes their release came with secret terms of their joining the National Guard,” he said.
When it comes to reaching agreements with “terrorists” – a term which Lavrov said is unfair to use in reference to people who stand up for their rights – the foreign minister cited Washington's recent actions.
“The United States without hesitation reached an agreement with the Taliban – which is not only accused of terrorism, but is unanimously referred to as terrorists by the UNSC. Five people were exchanged for one American,” he said.
Kiev's military operation has been intensifying since May, claiming the lives of 270, according to Ukraine's Health Ministry. Around 700 others were injured.
Shortly after winning the snap presidential election in May, Poroshenko stated that the military operation in the southeast of the country would continue, stating that “it must be more effective, and military units must be better equipped."