Ukraine has key to better Russia-EU relations - Lavrov
"The Minsk agreements are being blocked by Ukraine. Thus, Ukraine now holds the key to normalization of relations between Russia and the European Union," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the head of Rossiya Segodnya news agency, Dmitry Kiselyov.
With the EU leaders having failed to agree on automatically extending Russian sanctions or exerting more pressure on Moscow as long as the ceasefire is holding, Europe's decision to link its policy towards Russia to the implementation of the Minsk agreements is being used by Kiev, Lavrov said.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s attempts to have foreign troops deployed in eastern Ukraine as a peacekeeping mission might be a "tactical loophole," Russia's top diplomat said.
Sometimes, when one side needs to buy time, a new idea is being thrown in only to distract the attention from the main issue and shift the progress, Lavrov explained, adding that he hoped the idea of European peacekeepers in Ukraine is not yet another example of such trick.
Moscow has previously criticized Kiev's unilateral invitation of a police force under the aegis of the EU into eastern Ukraine, saying the move undermined the Minsk ceasefire agreement because it wasn’t agreed by the rebel forces.
Russia is ready to hear Kiev's proposals on the matter - if representatives of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk are being involved in discussion, but Ukraine should be able to explain why such mission could be more effective than the already operating OSCE monitors, the minister said at a press conference on Monday.
"There is a progress on keeping the ceasefire," Lavrov said, adding that still there are areas where the agreements have not been fully implemented. The area of the Donetsk Airport is being shelled by Kiev forces, the minister said, citing OSCE reports.
The so-called Normandy Four will monitor the implementation of the Minsk documents, according to Lavrov, who said that the group's ministers - including Russian, German, French and Ukrainian representatives, have agreed to meet for discussions on the progress.
At the same time, US is trying to restrain other countries' relations with Moscow, Lavrov said, adding that such "demarches" make him question the decisions made by some US politicians.
"All partners who I meet when paying visits, and my colleagues who come with visits [to Russia] have come under pressure either from a US ambassador or some lower rank emissary from Washington who have traveled to the region with a warning," Lavrov said in the interview with Rossiya Segodnya.
"It is obvious to me that Washington does not want to see the success of the Minsk agreements and overcoming of the crisis in Russian-European relations, although [US Secretary of State] John Kerry constantly reassures me of the contrary," he said.
Yemen conflict also needs peaceful solution
Moscow is also disappointed by the actions of an international coalition, taking part in the military campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen without consulting UN's Security Council, Lavrov said in the interview on Monday. Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition have only sought UN approval after having launched the operation, meaning that the campaign "has no internationally legal basis."
Saying the geopolitical balance in the Persian Gulf region depends on the Yemen crisis, Lavrov said Moscow is very much worried over the "new deep crack between the Sunnis and Shiites." Russia has warned against such a confrontation years ago, but has been criticized for trying to instigate a conflict.
"But now everyone admits that such dangerous development of events could be even more dangerous than actions trying to confront Islam and Christianity," he said, adding that Moscow is working with its Saudi, Egyptian and other counterparts calling for a peaceful solution.