Ukraine calls for Russian troop withdrawal

Kiev says Moscow must take concrete steps, including withdrawing its troops from the country.

FILE: Ukraine says Russia must take concrete steps, including withdrawing its troops from Ukraine’s borders. Picture: AFP.

GENEVA - A top Ukrainian diplomat said on Thursday Russia must take concrete steps including withdrawing its troops from Ukraine's borders before Kiev would sign up to a draft road map to lessen tensions.

"It's not enough just to say that we will do something, as the Russian Federation does. We already passed this phase of the words," Ukraine's Ambassador to the United Nations at Geneva Yurii Klymenko said at a briefing for diplomats and reporters.

"We had a lot of words and assurances by the Russian Federation, but the deeds are completely different."

Russia had promised to withdraw its troops from the border, he said, but they were still there in the same number, and Russia now planned military manoeuvres on the border on 25 May, the day of Ukraine's presidential elections.

"I would like to hear from the Russian delegate, maybe he could share with us the logic of this. For me the logic is very clear. The logic is to do whatever possible to disrupt the presidential elections in Ukraine," Klymenko said.

Russian troop withdrawals are not part of a road map drawn up last week by the Swiss chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which aimed to give new impetus to a deal signed in Geneva on 17 April by the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the United States.

A Russian diplomat at the meeting on Thursday rejected Klymenko's accusations of Russian involvement in events in eastern Ukraine, saying Russia challenged Ukrainian authorities in Kiev and elsewhere to offer proof.

Klymenko said he regretted the Russian diplomat's words.

"Today I heard another attempt to put things upside down by the Russian Federation, unfortunately," he added.

Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, which he referred to as "the occupied territory of Crimea", had prompted 7,000 people to leave, and there could be as many as 30,000 displaced people by the end of the year, he said, citing estimates by the International Organization of Migration.

"It's a real challenge, first of all for Ukraine, and it could affect the region as a whole. These people are not leaving just because they want to leave but because they are facing a real threat - intimidation, harassment, kidnapping of members of their family on the part of the local authorities."