An American paramedic who died in an explosion while working with international monitors in eastern Ukraine might have been the target of a false flag attack, according to the Russian government.
"The Foreign Ministry is outraged by the cynical act that resulted in a human casualty and targeted international monitors whose efforts are aimed at achieving peace," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's team said late Sunday. "We call for a thorough and unbiased investigation and holding the perpetrators accountable."
The paramedic, Joseph Stone, was killed when his vehicle struck a landmine in territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. His death, along with injuries to two other Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors, prompted a new round of western criticism directed at Russia, which annexed Crimea and sent unmarked special forces into eastern Ukraine in 2014.
"The tragic death of a staff member only serves to underline the urgent need for all sides, particularly the Russian-led separatist forces, to implement their commitments under the Minsk agreements," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Monday, referring to a ceasefire deal negotiated in 2015.
Lavrov's team blames the ongoing violence on Ukrainian forces and suggested that Stone's death was the result of a Ukrainian effort to mobilize international opposition against Russia.
"The circumstances of the incident suggest that there is a high probability of a provocation aimed at derailing the settlement in Donbass," the Foreign Ministry said. "It is obvious that incidents of this kind and the overall escalation of tension benefit those who are not interested in the implementation of the political, economic and humanitarian provisions of the Minsk Package of Measures."
The Russian government offered a similar defense after the latest use of chemical weapons in Syria, which prompted Trump to authorize an airstrike against Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"It [might have been] a staged provocation, a deliberate incident designed to create a pretext for increasing pressure on the legitimate Syrian authorities," Putin said days after the attack. "That is all. But it must be investigated."