German Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged Russia and Ukraine to reduce tensions over Crimea, amid what he said was contradictory evidence from the two countries of an alleged attack on the peninsula.
Germany is concerned about worsening security in Crimea and all sides “must refrain from anything that may lead to a further deterioration of the situation,” Steinmeier told reporters after talks with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov in Yekaterinburg yesterday.
There is still “no full clarity” about what happened “and we’re waiting for the results of investigations by the Russian and Ukrainian sides,” he said.
There is no need at this point for the “extreme measure” of breaking off diplomatic relations with Ukraine, Lavrov said.
It is important to stabilize the situation and “not give in to emotions,” though Russia is ready to provide “irrefutable evidence” that Ukraine planned attacks in Crimea to destabilize the peninsula, he said.
The talks took place after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened a “very serious” response last week when he accused Ukrainian agents of killing two Russian servicemen in Crimea, triggering the worst diplomatic standoff between the countries since last year’s Minsk truce deal eased hostilities in the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Russia bolstered its military forces in Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
The EU said that there had been no independent confirmation of the killings.
Russia deployed S-400 Triumph air defense systems in Crimea, the Moscow-based RIA Novosti news service reported on Friday. Putin discussed bolstering Crimea’s defenses with his Security Council on Thursday.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who spoke with US Vice President Joe Biden on Friday, has dismissed Russia’s accusations as “fiction” that could be an “excuse for further military threats” against his country.
He put the military on alert along the contact line with separatist forces and the frontier with the Black Sea territory, where Ukrainian military officials say Russian troops are reinforcing their positions.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said last week that diplomatic ties with Ukraine might be cut after what he said was a Ukrainian incursion into Crimea, which he called a crime that needs to be investigated, the Interfax news service reported.
The Crimean crisis erupted as efforts to resolve the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have become stalled, Steinmeier said.
The Minsk accords remain in effect and still provide the best way to achieve peace, he said, amid a surge in violence in the area.
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