Kerry voices concern to Russian counterpart on Ukraine fighting

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 13, 2015 11:18 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday expressed "gave concern" to his Russian counterpart about a sharp rise in separatist attacks in eastern Ukraine and urged an immediate cease-fire, the State Department said.

Kerry's comments, in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, reflected growing U.S. worries about the increasing violence between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels.

"The secretary expressed grave concern about the sharp increase in separatist attacks in Eastern Ukraine, and urged an immediate ceasefire and full implementation of Minsk obligations," the State Department said in a statement.

A ceasefire deal, signed in mid-February in Minsk, has failed to stem the violence in the eastern conflict zone. Both sides regularly accuse the other of violating the terms of the agreement and casualties are reported almost daily.

In Washington on Monday, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was "deeply troubled" by the rise in attacks, which he said had left three Ukrainian soldiers dead and 35 wounded in the past several days. Kirby said Ukraine had reported 127 attacks on Monday.

He also condemned a weekend arson attack that destroyed four vehicles in Donesk belonging to OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) monitors.

More than 6,500 people have been killed since fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels seeking independence from Kiev erupted in April 2014, according to U.N. estimates.

In the phone call, Kerry also raised concerns about Iranian elite Quds force leader Qasem Soleimani's travel to Moscow, the State Department said. Soleimani has been subjected to an international travel ban and asset freeze by the U.N. Security Council since 2007.

Kerry and Lavrov also discussed options for a political solution to the Syria conflict, the State Department said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham and Susan Heavey)