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Russia seeks to continue dialogue with Ukraine’s current authorities

April 08, 2014, 17:11 UTC+3 MOSCOW

“It will be impossible to calm the situation, if the Ukrainian authorities ignore the interests of Ukraine’s south-eastern regions,” Russia’s Foreign Minister says

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Sergei Lavrov

Sergei Lavrov

© ITAR-TASS/Zurab Dzhavakhadze

MOSCOW, April 08. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said Ukraine’s current authorities should meet the interests of the country's south-eastern regions.

“It will be impossible to calm the situation, if the Ukrainian authorities ignore the interests of Ukraine’s south-eastern regions,” Lavrov said on Tuesday.

“Russia does not give up the dialogue with Ukraine’s authorities. We’re holding talks in economic and political fields,” he said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has also voiced its readiness for multiparty talks on Ukraine involving Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine, but there are no specific agreements yet.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday set Russia’s basic approaches to the negotiating issues.

“We are really ready to consider the multiparty format that will involve Europeans, the USA, Russia and the Ukrainian side,” Lavrov said.

“(US Secretary of State) John Kerry and I did not discuss any specific date, because in line with our agreement, it is necessary to first and foremost understand what the format of this event, the agenda and the legal procedures will be,” he said.

The political and economic situation in Ukraine is far from stable after a coup occurred in the country in February following months of anti-government protests, often violent, which started in November 2013 when the country suspended the signing of an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

Security concerns caused President Viktor Yanukovych to leave Ukraine. Amid riots that involved radicals, new people were brought to power in Kiev. Russia does not recognize the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities, saying Yanukovich is the only legitimate leader of Ukraine, but the West recognizes the new leadership as legitimate.

The Ukrainian crisis deteriorated when the Republic of Crimea, where most residents are Russians, signed a reunification deal with Russia on March 18 after a referendum two days earlier in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

One of the current difficulties is that Kiev has so far not given Moscow any clear explanations of the principles that will underlie the new draft Ukrainian Constitution. Lavrov said no information is available on the constitution’s drafting.

“I was trying to get explanations on that from (acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister) Andrii Deshchytsia, but there were none. We hear from different people about the transfer of new powers to regions. If you are really ready to invite regions, invite them, sit down (to the negotiating table) with them,” the Russian foreign minister said.

“When the American side voices its plans to hold a multiparty meeting in 10 days, when (Ukrainian parliament-appointed prime minister Arseniy) Yatsenyuk pledged to complete work on a draft constitution, we have a question,” said Lavrov, who was speaking in Moscow after talks with his Angolan counterpart Georges Rebelo Chicoti.

“Aren’t there plans to hold the meeting when the draft is ready and the regions are confronted with an accomplished fact and we are invited to the meeting in order to legitimize, by our presence, the constitution draft that no one has seen yet,” he said.

The Russian side proposes taking as a basis for possible talks a package of agreements earlier reached on Ukraine. Lavrov is calling on the West to follow those documents.

“After a coup d’etat occurred (in Ukraine), we called [the sides] to return to the February 21 agreement (between President Yanukovych and the opposition), (but) these calls were ignored,” the minister said.

“Now we are told that this is a thing of the past, let’s act proceeding from what has happened. This policy is not serious, not very honest. We want our partners to fulfill all we agreed upon, including the agreement of February 21 and the implementation of an inclusive constitutional reform with full respect of the rights of regions,” he said.

“I would prefer to act in this way rather than wait for events to develop in line with a negative scenario,” Lavrov said.

Referendum discussion

Asked whether Moscow would support holding referendums in eastern Ukraine, Lavrov said discussions of such issues before their start is “not productive, particularly during crises”.

The Russian foreign minister said the situation in Ukraine will be hard to calm down should Kiev ignore the interests of the country’s southeast. He said the West should not seek foreign interference in the situation. Washington, Lavrov said, is trying to shift the blame when it says protests in southeastern Ukraine had been paid for.

He said such statements “will remain on the conscience of American partners”.

The minister suggested that Ukraine’s southeastern regions be represented by those who decided to run in the presidential elections rather than oligarchs appointed to the regions as governors.

Sanctions against Russia

Western countries have imposed targeted sanctions on some Russian officials following Crimea’s reunification with Russia, but Moscow has responded tit for tat. The West has threatened Russia with new economic sanctions unless Moscow changes its foreign policy.

Moscow’s position that the Crimean referendum was in full conformity with the international law and the UN Charter, and also in line with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, has been repeatedly stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials.

However, Ukraine’s new authorities and the West have denounced the Crimean plebiscite claiming it was illegal, and have refused to recognize Crimea part of Russia.

In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when it was gifted to Ukraine by Soviet Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev.

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