Russia regrets end of Ukraine truce

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iol pic wld president-Ukraine AP Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko makes a televised address in Kiev. Picture: Mykola Lazarenko, Pool

Moscow - Russia expressed “regret” on Tuesday over Ukraine's decision to restart a military operation against separatists and urged its foreign partners to stop using the ex-Soviet country as a pawn in geopolitical games.

Moscow also stressed that peace talks should start as soon as possible, pledging to “fully facilitate” the process.

“We are convinced that efforts to bring the situation back to the negotiating table should be continued,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's last-minute decision not to extend a ceasefire after consultations with Russia, France and Germany on Monday night “causes deep regret,” it added.

It also appeared to blame external meddling, without going into details.

“One gets the impression that the change in Kiev's position ... did not occur without outside influence,” the ministry said.

Poroshenko announced that his government would not extend the 10-day ceasefire despite a rare moment of agreement between Russia, France and Germany who had called earlier in the day for the truce to be prolonged and a new round of talks held with pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow also criticised countries for using the Ukraine crisis as a pretext to punish Russia.

“We once again urge (partners) to stop using Ukraine as a bargaining chip in geopolitical games,” the foreign ministry said.

The West has threatened Russia with a new round of sanctions that could target its already struggling economy unless the Kremlin explicitly pressures Ukrainian separatists to stop fighting.

The Kremlin proposed placing Ukrainian border guards and OSCE observers at the Russian border to help control the situation, the statement said.

“Support has been expressed for organising direct contacts between Russian and Ukraine border guards for these purposes.

“If common sense prevails and the truce is extended then we are ready together with our partners to start implementing the agreements,” the Russian foreign ministry said. - AFP

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