WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Thursday the Minsk deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine was a “potentially significant step” but said heavy weapons must be withdrawn from the conflict zone and that Russia must pull out its own soldiers and equipment.
“The true test of today’s accord will be in its full and unambiguous implementation, including the durable end of hostilities and the restoration of Ukrainian control over its border with Russia,” the White House said in a statement that made no reference to the possibility of fresh U.S. sanctions.
“The United States is particularly concerned about the escalation of fighting today, which is inconsistent with the spirit of the accord,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in the statement.
“This agreement must now be followed by immediate, concrete steps to fulfill the commitments by all parties. The cease-fire must be implemented and honored. Heavy weapons must be withdrawn from the conflict zone, and Russia must end its support for the separatists and withdraw its soldiers and military equipment from eastern Ukraine,” he added.
The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia for its support of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
Earnest made no reference to the possibility of additional U.S. sanctions, in contrast to a White House comment on Tuesday describing a conversation between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The White House said then: “If Russia continues its aggressive actions in Ukraine, including by sending troops, weapons, and financing to support the separatists, the costs for Russia will rise.”
Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Doina Chiacu and David Storey