Ukraine Clashes Prompt Stern Call From Kerry to Lavrov

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 28, 2015.

VOA News,August 14, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed “grave concern” to his Russian counterpart about a "sharp rise" in separatist attacks in eastern Ukraine.

A senior State Department official told reporters in Washington on Thursday that in a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry urged "an immediate cease-fire" and called for "full implementation" of the cease-fire agreement reached between Ukraine's government and Russia-backed separatists in Minsk, Belarus, this year.

More than 6,500 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the fighting erupted in April 2014, and there has been another spike in violence in recent days. The two sides regularly accuse each other of violating the cease-fire agreement.

Washington and its European allies accuse Moscow of supporting the separatists, including with Russian troops. Russia denies the charge, claiming the Russians fighting with the separatists in Ukraine are volunteers.

On Wednesday, outgoing U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno said Russia poses the "most dangerous" threat to the United States because of its "sophisticated" operations in Ukraine.

Odierno’s statement echoed comments made last month by U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford before the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.