Ukraine's lack of progress on reforms may lead the EU to lean towards rejecting an extension of sanctions on Russia, according to the European Union's Ambassador to Russia, Vygaudas Ušackas.
Vygaudas Ušackas
© DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

"If the commitments are not met, this may become political grounds for shifting the guilt to the Ukrainian side and thus bringing new dynamics to political discussions," Usackas, a Lithuanian diplomat, told BNS Lithuania.

"It is important for us to demand that Russia reins in separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk to ensure abidance by ceasefire and the exchange of prisoners, and, of course, withdrawal of foreign military forces and handover of border control," said the ambassador.

"But the Minsk accords also stipulate commitments undertaken by our friends and partners in Kiev, including revision of the Constitutional provisions and local organization of elections," said Ušackas.

Asked by BNS whether the EU could give up the demands for Moscow, if Ukraine failed to implement its obligations under the Minsk agreements, the ambassador said: "Making statements or assessments now may still be premature. There is a clear time-frame and demands to review the relations with Russia and possible recall of sanctions. Therefore, the most important thing now is implementation of agreements on both sides."

"Ukrainians are currently under a double magnifying glass – observed both by their allies in the West and by Russia. The West wants to help but they need more good news to continue the support. Others may be waiting for the state to discredit itself, at the same time shifting the guilt and responsibility for the failure to implement the Minsk commitments on Kiev," he added.

The diplomat's remarks reflect growing concerns in Europe on the Ukrainian government's determination to fight corruption and conduct reforms envisaged in the Minsk peace plan.

The recent resignation of Ukraine’s finance minister, Lithuanian Aivaras Abromavičius prompted a raft of criticism of Kiev by Western countries, for not implementing reforms or tackling endemic corruption.

The EU and the United States introduced the sanctions on Russian energy, banking and defence sectors in July of 2014.

Brussels has repeatedly said that the sanctions could be recalled only after the Minsk accords are implemented in full. Meanwhile, supporters of continued sanctions against Russia maintain that they are necessary to pressure Moscow to cease the conflict, which has already claimed more than 9,000 lives.

However, Russia claims that it is Ukraine, which is violating the agreements by still failing to adopt Constitutional amendments on decentralization of governance. Kiev maintains the decentralization is only possible after Russia-supported separatists fully cease fire.

"We have always said that the implementation of the Minsk accords depends on both sides. Yes, Ukraine is the victim of the crisis, the conflict and the war, as part of its territory has been unlawfully annexed by Russia, yes, fighting continues in Eastern Ukraine, and the situation remains tense. On the other hand, the EU has always spoken in support of deescalating the situation and achieving a political agreement," said Ušackas.

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