December 4, 2014 / 11:38 AM / 5 years ago

Kerry says Russia can rebuild trust if it withdraws from Ukraine

BASEL, Switzerland (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday Russia had pitched itself into isolation through its own actions in Ukraine and could rebuild international credibility only by ending its support for pro-Russian separatists.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) talks to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Basel December 4, 2014. REUTERS/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool

However, President Vladimir Putin, giving his annual state of the union address in Moscow, described Russia as surrounded by enemies who sought its destruction.

Speaking at a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), Kerry said Moscow had failed to live up to its commitments under September Minsk ceasefire accords to end the conflict in Ukraine.

“The United States and countries that support Ukraine’s sovereignty and rights do not seek confrontation,” Kerry said.

“It is not our design or desire that we see a Russia that is isolated through its own actions,” he said, “In fact we are convinced that Moscow could rebuild trust and relationships if it simply helps to calm turbulent waters, if it takes steps now to implement the Minsk Protocol,” he added.

He said Moscow should not only meet its commitments under the Minsk ceasefire accords but also withdraw Russian troops and weapons from eastern Ukraine and use its influence on pro-Russian separatists to release all hostages.

Support for the separatists had hurt Russia, he said.

“The result is damage to its credibility and its own citizens wind up paying a steep economic and human price.”

Putin said Russia was justified in intervening in Ukraine because the West had supported a “coup” in Kiev, he said. The war that has followed in the southeast, in which heavily armed pro-Russian separatists have seized a region they now call “New Russia”, proved Moscow’s policy was right.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, due to meet Kerry later in Basel, said the Minsk agreement remained the template for resolving the crisis and Russia despite continued flare-ups of fighting.

Russia denies Western accusations that it has supplied arms and troops to back the pro-Russian rebellion.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Caroline Cropley, writing by Tom Miles; editing by Ralph Boulton

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