War of words continues between Ukraine and Russia

MUNICH - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov traded accusations on Saturday over the crisis in eastern Ukraine, at the internationally-renowned Munich Security Conference.

Poroshenko accused Russia of sending troops and weapons into eastern Ukraine, during his speech at the conference.

He showed participants a number of Russian passports and military IDs, which he said were seized from the soldiers who crossed into the Ukrainian territories.

"This is the best evidence for the aggression and for the presence of Russian troops," Poroshenko said, adding that so far 1,432 Ukrainian soldiers and 5,638 people lost their lives due to the armed conflict.

He accused Russia for waging a hidden war against Ukraine and annexing part of its territory.

- Call for non-lethal aid

Poroshenko called on Western countries to assist Ukraine with non-lethal weapons to help it defend its territories.

“We are talking about defensive weapons,” he said, stressing that their demand was not lethal, but non-lethal weapons.

“We are talking about the communications station, which just helps us to coordinate efforts of our armed forces. We are talking about the counter-battery radar to defend us from the artillery fire. We are not going by these weapons to kill anybody which will make defense of my country more efficient,” he added.

- Lavrov defends Crimea move

In another panel discussion today at the conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defended policy of Moscow towards Ukraine and accused the Ukrainian government for the escalation of violence in the region.

He claimed that the Ukrainian government has failed so far to launch a true national dialogue with the people in eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov also blamed the U.S. and the EU for the tensions in Ukraine.

“At any stage of the crisis, American counterparts and the EU, under their influence, took steps to escalate the conflict. They directly support the coup d'état,” he said, referring to the Maidan protests in 2013, which ended the power of Moscow-backed former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who refused to sign a deal to have closer ties with the EU.

Lavrov dismissed criticisms against Russia’s policy towards Ukraine and argued that the annexation of Crimea was not a violation of international law.

“What happened in Crimea was the exercise of the right of self-determination. It is part of the U.N. Charter,” he said.

- German-French initiative for ceasefire

The Russian foreign minister spoke cautiously about the recent diplomatic initiative of Germany and France to stop violence in eastern Ukraine.

“Russia will be committed to peace. We are against combats. We would like to see withdrawal of the weapons.  We would like to see direct negotiations between Kiev and Donetsk, within the framework of territorial integrity,” Lavrov said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday about halting the violence in eastern Ukraine. However, the European leaders failed to broker a cease-fire deal following their long discussions on Friday night, but agreed to continue discussions on the German-French proposal.

U.S. and European leaders accuse Russia of supporting the conflict with arms and ammunition, while Russia says the U.S. and EU have deliberately destabilized Ukraine to expand the west's military presence in Eastern Europe through NATO.

More than 5,300 people have been killed and 12,200 others injured in eastern Ukraine since mid-April last year in the ongoing conflict, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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