April 11 (Reuters) – Russia will not pause its military operation in Ukraine for subsequent rounds of peace talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.
Russian officials say peace talks with Ukraine are not progressing as rapidly as they would like, and have accused the West of trying to derail negotiations by raising war crimes allegations against Russian troops in Ukraine, which Moscow denies.
Speaking in an interview with Russian state television, Lavrov said he saw no reason not to continue talks with Ukraine but insisted Moscow would not halt its military operation when the sides convene again.
Lavrov said that President Vladimir Putin had ordered to suspend military action during the first round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators in late February but that Moscow’s position had changed since.
“After we became convinced that the Ukrainians were not planning to reciprocate, a decision was made that during the next rounds of talks, there would be no pause (in military action) so long as a final agreement is not reached,” Lavrov said.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbor’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.
Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.
Lavrov last week accused Kyiv of presenting Moscow with an “unacceptable” draft peace deal that deviated from agreements the sides had previously reached. Kyiv dismissed Lavrov’s comments at the time as a tactic to undermine Ukraine or divert attention from war crime accusations against Russian troops. Read full story
In the interview aired on Monday, Lavrov also said that calls by Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, for the bloc to continue arming Kyiv marked a “very serious U-turn” in European policy.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)