US to maintain sanctions against Russia

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Washington, Feb 14 (IANS) The US State Department on Tuesday lashed out at Russia on the occasion of the third anniversary of the signing of the Minsk Agreements, vowing to continue sanctions against Moscow until it changes course on the Ukraine issue.

In a statement, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert accused Moscow of continuing to “disregard its commitment” under the accord and “stoking a hot conflict” in Ukraine, reported Xinhua.

“Russia continues to deny its direct involvement, while Russian-led forces intimidate and deny secure access to unarmed Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors,” she said.

The Ukrainian government launched a military operation in its southeast Donbas region in 2014, after the pro-Russia residents refused to recognise the pro-West Ukrainian authorities and sought independence.

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Kiev and the insurgents reached a peace agreement brokered by Russia, France and Germany in Minsk, capital of Belarus, in 2014, with a more detailed renewal of the agreement, or Minsk II agreement, signed in February 2015.

Urging the Russian government to cease its “aggression” in Ukraine, Nauert said the US sanctions will “remain in place” until Russia fully implements its commitments under the Minsk agreements.

She added that the West’s separate Crimea-related sanctions will also remain in place until Russia “returns the peninsula to Ukraine.”

Crimea, formerly part of Ukraine, was absorbed into Russia in March 2014 following a local referendum, which was rejected by Ukraine and its allies.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Moscow has been and remains committed to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements, but there are no significant achievements yet.

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“Unfortunately, on the anniversary of the signing, we have little to boast of,” Peskov was quoted by Russia Today as saying.

–IANS

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