Envoy says Ukraine is actually in war with Russia.
TOKYO, Feb. 18, Kyodo.
Ukraine is "actually waging war against Russia and their proxies" in the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists, Kiev's Ambassador to Japan Ihor Kharchenko said in a recent interview with Kyodo News.
The envoy said he is "100 percent" certain that Russian troops are operating in Ukraine, answering in the affirmative when asked if the conflict in eastern Ukraine is a "fight for freedom" from Russian influence.
Taking a swipe against the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kharchenko said, "Russia today is a terrorist state."
The ambassador made the remarks amid continued fighting between Ukrainian troops and separatist forces despite a cease-fire agreement struck last Thursday.
The cease-fire accord, reached by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, called for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry and the granting of special status to areas controlled by the separatists.
After the cease-fire took effect Sunday, fighting stopped in most areas but "not everywhere," the ambassador said.
Currently, fighting is continuing in Debaltseve in the Donetsk region, a strategic transport hub where the Russian-backed separatists have surrounded Ukrainian government troops.
"The situation is very volatile and unstable," Kharchenko said.
The cease-fire deal struck in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, merely stopped the fighting but does not translate to a peace agreement, Kharchenko said, noting such a deal can be reached only after Russian troops "fully and unconditionally" withdraw from Ukraine.
He urged Russia to abide by a previous cease-fire accord struck last September, which called for the pullout of foreign troops.
Kharchenko also said Ukraine will continue to protect its territory and added the granting of special status to areas controlled by the separatists in eastern Ukraine would amount to self-government at the local level and not autonomy.
While recognizing the positive effect of sanctions imposed by the United States, European countries and Japan on Russia over the Ukraine crisis, the ambassador called on the international community to do more to defuse the tensions.
"Sanctions are good," he said, but such steps are "slow" in bringing about change, and Ukrainian soldiers and civilians continue to die.
He said the Japanese government had been "extremely helpful" politically and in providing economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.