Charges of ‘Open Aggression’ Spoil Hopes for Cease Fire in Ukraine

A woman rides on the back of a truck holding a pitchfork and a flag of Novorossia (Newrussia, a union between the "Donetsk People's Republic" and "Lugansk People's Republic") on August 24, 2014 in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. (Photo: AFP Photo/Max Vetrov)

Key parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine meet in Minsk as war of words between leaders and continued violence on the ground give little hope for peace

As high-level talks took place in the city of Minsk, Belarus on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on the convening parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire between the Ukraine Army and rebel forces still holding ground in Luhansk, Donetsk, and elsewhere.

Lavrov called on the Ukraine Army to end its shelling of civilian areas and for all parties to quiet their guns so that the necessary negotiations could take place. He also pushed back against accusations that Russian military forces have been directly involved in the fighting and said there were no future plans to do so.

“There will be no military intervention,” Lavrov told students at Moscow State Institute of International Relations on Monday, according to the Associated Press. “We call for an exclusively peaceful settlement of this severe crisis, this tragedy.”

Speaking ahead of the talks on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced the idea of statehood for eastern Ukraine, though his representatives made clear his language was not insinuating “independence” for the eastern regions, but a unified Ukraine that included political self-determination and some level of autonomy.

For his part, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday again accused Russia of giving direct support to rebels who have be able to push back Ukraine Army units in recent days, including reports of forcing a retreat near the main airport in Luhansk on Monday.

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