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No progress on Ukraine truce or peace talks: Russian FM

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-POLITICS-CRISIS-DIPLOMACY-KLIMKIN MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday (Aug 18) that no progress was reached on establishing a ceasefire or starting peace negotiations over Ukraine during crisis talks in Berlin with his counterpart from Kiev.

“One place where we cannot report positive results is in, first and foremost, establishing a ceasefire and (starting) a political process,” Lavrov told a Berlin press conference that was carried live by Russian state television.

Five hours of talks late Sunday that also involved the foreign ministers of Germany and France concluded with an agreement for the sides to meet again and continue trying to deescalate the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

Lavrov accused Kiev’s new pro-European leaders of continually changing demands over what it would take to establish a truce in more than four months of fighting with pro-Kremlin insurgents that has claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Lavrov said he used the Berlin meeting to “reaffirm the Russian position, which is that a ceasefire… must be unconditional. Our Ukrainian counterparts, unfortunately, continue setting conditions – and rather vague ones at that – including, as they say, the establishment of an impenetrable border,” Lavrov noted.

He argued that Russia had long attained full control over its portion of Ukraine’s eastern frontier and said it was up to Kiev to look after its own security. Kiev and its Western allies accuse the Kremlin of shelling Ukrainian positions at the border in order to help the rebels have open access to deliveries of Russian fighters and arms. Moscow denies providing support to pro-Russian rebels.

Lavrov said he supported Kiev’s proposal of providing unmanned surveillance drones to a handful of monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who are stationed at a few of the border crossings. “The OSCE mission has the right to supply itself with the required equipment,” Lavrov said. “We support this approach. The more effective this mission, the better.”