December 9, 2014 / 7:51 AM / 5 years ago

Russia's Lavrov says easing of east Ukraine tensions 'long way off'

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said an easing of tensions in eastern Ukraine was still a long way off, despite an announcement by Kiev that it had suspended combat operations against pro-Russian rebels.

Lavrov said negotiations meant to accompany the unilateral truce, dubbed the “Day of Silence” in Ukraine, would take place in ‘the coming days’, though no day has been set for the talks.

Speaking about steps taken in previous months to reduce tensions in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels took up arms in April, Lavrov told RIA news agency in an interview: “As of yet, it is fully obvious that we are far from that goal.”

Kiev and the West accuse Russia of arming the rebels and supplying them with troops, charges Moscow denies.

The government forces and pro-Russian rebels have both flouted a Sept. 5 truce. Talks, under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), were meant to work towards cementing the truce by agreeing on measures such as moving heavy weapons away from the front line.

“In the coming days, a meeting of the contact group is planned, in which will be discussed a plan prepared by military specialists of practical measures... with the aim of a final ceasefire,” RIA quoted Lavrov as saying.

Talks were planned in Minsk, the site of previous meetings, including one that clinched the Sept. 5 ceasefire deal, but RIA said Kiev wanted the talks to be carried out on Tuesday while rebels wanted more time and to hold the talks on Friday.

Lavrov also warned in the interview with RIA that Russia would be forced to take “adequate measures” against U.S. plans to establish an anti-missile system in Europe, which Russia has long complained was meant to target Russian missiles.

Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Pavel Polityuk in Kiev, Writing by Thomas Grove, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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