U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Russia will inevitably face further economic sanctions if agreements on a cease-fire deal and steps toward peace in eastern Ukraine are not implemented.
After meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for about 80 minutes on the sidelines of a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva on March 2, Kerry said he hopes the cease-fire will be implemented fully "in the next hours, certainly not more than days."
He said that if that did not happen, there will “inevitably be further consequences that will place added strain on Russia’s already troubled economy.”
The talks in Geneva came less than a week after Kerry told the U.S. Congress that Russian officials have lied to his face about Moscow’s role in Ukraine.
Despite growing evidence of Russian deployments into eastern Ukraine -- including tanks, armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery, and antiaircraft systems -– Moscow continues to deny it is sending troops and weaponry there.
Kerry said he reiterated to Lavrov that the Minsk deal must be implemented by both "Russia’s leaders, and the separatists that they back,” so that the cease-fire agreement doesn’t become "a road to disappointment, potential deception, and further violence."
Initially, the separatists ignored the cease-fire deal in order to seize the strategic eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve from government troops.
Since then, there also have been reports that the Russian-backed separatists are building up forces near the Ukrainian-government controlled port city of Mariupol.
Mariupol is located in a strategic position on the coast of the Sea of Azov between separatist-held territory in southeastern Ukraine and the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea.
Charging that a cease-fire has yet to be implemented, Kerry demanded that "the full-measured commitments" of the Minsk agreement must be respected "everywhere, including in Debaltseve, outside Mariupol, and other key strategic areas” of eastern Ukraine.
He said there must no longer be “these broad swathes of noncompliance” nor “a cherry picking as to where heavy equipment will be moved back from without knowing where it has been moved to.”
Kerry also said he complained to Lavrov about continued recent deployments of Russian convoys into eastern Ukraine that have not been properly checked by OSCE monitors.
A report presented by the UN Human Rights Council earlier on March 2 said the war between Ukrainian government forces and the Russian-backed separatists has killed more than 6,000 people since April 2014.
While Russia denies its troops are fighting in Ukraine, the UN cited "credible reports [that] indicate a continuing flow of heavy weaponry and foreign fighters" from Russia.
In addition to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Kerry said he and Lavrov also spent “a fair amount of time” discussing Syria, the threat posed by Islamic State militants, and negotiations by six global powers with Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program.
Kerry accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of misinterpreting a great deal of what the United States is doing and is trying to do.
He said he hopes Washington and Moscow will get back to better cooperation.
The Kerry-Lavrov meeting followed the February 27 killing near the Kremlin of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Kerry and other U.S. and Western officials have called on Russia to conduct a prompt, thorough, transparent and credible investigation into the slaying.
U.S. officials say they will judge that investigation by its transparency and its results, and not by the fact that it is being led by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP