Putin aide: Kiev refuses to honor Minsk deal

Kiev has failed to meet its obligations under the Minsk peace accord and has instead introduced an economic blockade of eastern Ukraine, Russia's security chief says.

Patrushev — a longtime associate of President Vladimir Putin who serves as the executive secretary of the presidential Security Council — made the remarks in a written reply to questions posed by The Associated Press, and strongly called for the implementation of the February 2015 peace agreement signed in the Belarusian capital.

He insisted that the Minsk agreements obliges Kiev to coordinate with rebel leaders to "conduct a constitutional reform, amnesty, ensure the approval of permanent legislation on a special status of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, work out the issue of local elections and take steps to improve the humanitarian situation in southeastern Ukraine."

"Instead of a direct dialogue with representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk, the Ukrainian side has introduced a total blockade of the region," he said, adding that Kiev has dealt a heavy blow to local residents by refusing them pensions and other social payments and blocking banking services.

"They are forcing people, who, by the way, have Ukrainian passports, to starve," he said.

The Ukraine peace deal, brokered by France and Germany, was intended to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine that erupted in April 2014 weeks after a former Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president was chased from power by massive protests and Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Patrushev reaffirmed the Kremlin view that the removal of Ukraine's former leader was a "coup" organized by the United States and the European Union.

More than 9,000 people have died in fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russia rebels and government forces. While the Minsk deal has helped reduce hostilities, a political settlement still appears to be far off.

The Minsk agreement envisaged an amnesty to the rebels, broad autonomy for the rebel regions and local elections, followed by the re-establishment of Ukraine's control over the border with Russia. Ukraine and the West say the border has been a conduit for Russian troops and weapons backing the rebellion, claims that Moscow has denied.

The conflicting parties have blamed each other for the failure to honor the Minsk agreement and sporadic skirmishes.

Ukraine has demanded the full withdrawal of Russian troops from the rebel areas, while Moscow has countered by saying Russians there are volunteers who went to the region on their free will to help defend the local population.

Patrushev credited Germany and France for their efforts to reach a settlement, saying they are "sincerely trying to help solve the problem." He added, however, that Washington wields more influence with the Ukrainian government and could persuade it to comply with the Minsk deal.