03:51 GMT28 February 2020
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    The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe cannot turn the blind eye to what Kiev troops are doing in Donbass, the Russian foreign minister said.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (OSCE SMM) has already realized that concealing the Ukrainian government army’s ceasefire violations in Donbass is futile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

    "They [Kiev] continue to blatantly lie and blame everything on us, on Donbass [independence supporters] despite reports by OSCE SMM, which has always tried to stay neutral. Even when the OSCE SMM detects bursts of gunfire and notes directions from where it erupted without mentioning that the Ukrainian forces were located there – even such ‘neutrality’ is clear evidence that the SMM understands it cannot whitewash the Ukrainian army and its battalions anymore," Lavrov told the NTV Channel.

    Ukrainian Volunteer Battalions Contributed to Recent Escalation in Donbass

    Ukrainian volunteer battalions, such as "Donbas" and "Azov," have contributed to the recent escalation of hostilities in Donbass, the Russian foreign minister said.

    "Everyone understands and everyone knows that the current critical situation [in Donbass] has been definitely provoked by people to the west of the contact line. I intentionally speak not about the Ukrainian Armed Forces but the people to the west because 'Azov' and 'Donbas' volunteer battalions operate there and they do not respect the commandment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and think that they can do everything that comes to their heads," Lavrov said.

    He added that despite the recent agreements on ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons, reports about the violation of Minsk accord, which should be respected by Kiev, had been emerging on a daily basis.

    The situation in Donbass has escalated over the past few weeks, in particular near the town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, where clashes between Kiev forces and the troops of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) have intensified. The conflicting parties have both accused each other of initiating the violence.

    Ukraine Should Go Back to Decentralization Commitment

    Ukraine’s government should go back to its original commitment to devolve more powers to the regions after support from the West apparently made it forget its promises, Lavrov said.

    "They certainly should think about decentralization," he todl NTV.

    Decentralization was one of the prerequisites for Ukrainian peace agreed on by Russian, Ukrainian, EU and US top diplomats when they first met in April 2014 to find a way out of the crisis in Donbass.

    "Hours of talks led to a statement in which the Ukrainian side committed to and the rest of negotiators welcomed an immediate start of decentralization involving all regions of Ukraine. It was written down in the presence of US, EU, Russian and Ukrainian [diplomats]," Lavrov said.

    "Back then, they [Kiev] understood that the integrity of the country required devolution of authority … But later they apparently decided they could do without it because the West came to their aid and gave them money," he said, adding a new impetus from Kiev’s Western allies was needed to finally go ahead with the plan.

    According to Lavrov, a third of Ukrainian provinces had officially demanded that Kiev devolve powers to them, including in the traditionally pro-government west.

    The Donbass conflict erupted in April 2014 as a local counter-reaction to the West-sponsored Maidan coup in Kiev that had toppled legitimate President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions held independence referendums and proclaimed the People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev has since been conducting a military operation, encountering stiff local resistance.

    Related:

    Freudian Slip? Poroshenko Speaks of 'Temporary Ukrainian Occupation' in Donbass
    Donbass: Deal-Breaker for the New Détente?
    'West Begins to Understand True Nature' of Kiev Amid Donbass Escalation - Lavrov
    Tags:
    Ukrainian crisis, Donbass volunteer battalion, Azov Battalion, Special Monitoring Mission of OSCE (OSCE SMM), OSCE, Sergei Lavrov, Donbass, Ukraine
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