Russia’s Foreign Ministry says China is “tough” on separatists in its former province of Sakhalin, where the Kremlin says Russia is conducting a “full-scale operation” to stop them from “making any more provocations.”
The comments come as a United Nations panel has urged Moscow to allow the release of a group of detained activists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), as part of a peace plan in which Russia has agreed to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
The announcement, which comes as the United Nations Security Council is due to vote on a draft resolution on the crisis, is seen as an effort by the Kremlin to show its “commitment” to the ceasefire agreement signed in Minsk in September.
The statement from the Foreign Ministry said Russia had been “trying to prevent and suppress the release by the DPR of activists from its territory, in particular in the Donetsk region.”
The ministry did not identify any of the arrested activists, but said Russia “has been holding them in detention facilities, in addition to the detention facilities of other activists.”
“We hope that they will be released as soon as possible, to allow for the resumption of the process of de-escalation,” it said.
The group, which includes at least two people who are also members of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” and another “former DPR member” who were arrested last year, has not been named, though the group’s website claims it has been “mobilized and armed.”
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has urged all sides to end hostilities in Ukraine.
China has accused the DPR, which declared independence from Russia in 2014, of waging war on its territory and of violating international law.
A number of activists and opposition leaders in the region have been detained in recent weeks.
A local government in the DPR’s self-declared capital of Donetsk said on Tuesday it had detained a number of “high-ranking” separatists, saying they were responsible for violence that has taken place since the end of the separatist conflict in February.
The separatist-controlled region has also accused Russia of being behind the unrest, which has killed at least 9 civilians and displaced more than 1 million people.
In response, the UN has urged both sides to de-conflict, as well as “immediately” bring the situation under control.
It has urged Russia to grant humanitarian aid “to civilians in the territories it occupies, in the form of food, medicine, clothing and other essential items, and to allow humanitarian access to the territory under its control.”
It has also asked both sides “to ensure that all those detained do not flee the territory.”
The United Nations has previously urged both parties to halt the fighting and bring to a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Gatilov said on Monday that “if this resolution were to be adopted, then the actions of the armed groups, such as those in Ukraine, would be stopped, and it would be impossible to continue with any further hostilities.”