The actual ceasefire line, which is controlled by the militia, lies outside of Debaltsevo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
"The actual ceasefire line lies outside of Debaltseve because this line is controlled by the militia. There were many statements by DPR top officials on that […] If everything stopped and calmed down, we could begin negotiations on how to get the Ukrainian servicemen out to enable them to leave this encirclement," Lavrov told a briefing in Moscow on Wednesday.
Lavrov said that "attempts are being made [by Kyiv] to break through the encirclement instead of negotiations." Lavrov reiterated that Russia is alarmed by the situation in the "Debaltsevo encirclement" area. "We are saddened by what is going on there," he said.
Lavrov recalled that "the first thing" that Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested in the February 12 Minsk negotiations was "to reach an agreement on the settlement of the situation with Debaltsevo."
"He then shared our information that a large group of Ukrainian troops were encircled in the Debaltsevo area, saying that everything needed to be done to enable those people to leave the encirclement, leave with dignity, naturally, leaving their hardware behind because the militia would definitely not allow that, understanding that the heavy weapons would leave the encirclement and would turn around and continued opening fire on populated area," Lavrov said.
Lavrov said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in Minsk on February 11 that "this problem [Debaltsevo encirclement] did not exist and there was no encirclement."
"Our additional attempts to discuss and reach an understanding on how to resolve this problem failed. And what happened, happened: the encirclement was there, as we expected, at 00:00 on Saturday (February 15)," Lavrov said.
The Donbas militia would not object to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's proposal on brokering the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Debaltsevo, if such a proposal has really been made, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
"It seems to me that, if such a proposal has been made, the militia wouldn't object to it," Lavrov said at a press conference following negotiations with South Ossetian Foreign Minister David Sanakoyev, when asked by a journalist to comment on Lukashenko's statement that Minsk could offer security guarantees for Ukrainian troops' pullout of Debaltseve.
Lavrov noted at the same time that he had not heard about Lukashenko's proposal himself. "I believe any proposals that could help do this deserve support, certainly if the Ukrainian authorities themselves agree to this," he added.
"We are calling on everyone once again now, including in Debaltsevo, to stop firing. Yes, there are people who have been encircled there, but let's resolve their fate through negotiations, thinking primarily about human lives," Lavrov said.
It was reported earlier that Lukashenko had offered Minsk's guarantees on ending the fighting in the area of Debaltsevo and pulling Ukrainian troops out of it.
All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.