Artillery types

Russia accuses Ukraine of mobilizing artillery and simulating negotiations

MOSCOW, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Russia on Thursday accused Ukraine of moving heavy artillery to the front line of fighting with pro-Russian separatists and failing to engage in a peace process, in a further escalation of hostile rhetoric towards Kyiv.

Remarks by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova do not indicate that Moscow is willing to tone down its harsh criticism of Ukraine despite a two-hour call this week between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden.

“Negotiations on a peaceful settlement are virtually at an impasse,” Zakharova told reporters, referring to the seven-year conflict between Ukrainian and separatist forces in the eastern Donbass region.

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The ministry’s Twitter feed, quoting Zakharova, said: “With the support of NATO countries providing the country with weapons, Kyiv is strengthening its contingent on the contact line in Donbass.”

She said Ukraine was only “imitating” the process of meeting its obligations under the 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict.

There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian side. Kiev has denied Russian accusations that it plans to retake the territory by force and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said this week he hoped to reach a new ceasefire agreement.

Tuesday’s US-Russian call was dominated by tensions over Ukraine, with Biden worrying about a Russian military buildup near the border and telling Putin that Moscow would face serious consequences economic if it invaded.

Putin said talk of an invasion was “provocative” and accused Ukraine and NATO of stoking tensions.

Russian armed forces chief Valery Gerasimov was quoted by Russian news agencies as telling foreign military attachés that the situation in eastern Ukraine was worsening and Kyiv was to blame.

“The deliveries of helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and planes to Ukraine are prompting the Ukrainian authorities to take abrupt and dangerous action,” he said.

“Any provocation of the Ukrainian authorities by way of forced settlement of the problems of Donbass will be suppressed.”

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Additional reporting by Tom Balmforth Writing by Mark Trevelyan Editing by Frances Kerry

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