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Russian FM calls on Kiev authorities to hold dialogue with regions

April 24, 2014, 22:24 updated at: April 25, 2014, 0:47 UTC+3 MOSCOW

“We are for immediate steps to de-escalate the situation,” Lavrov said

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MOSCOW, April 24 /ITAR-TASS/. The Kiev authorities should hold dialogue with regions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday after talks with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil.

“We are for immediate steps to de-escalate the situation,” Lavrov said. “The term ‘de-escalation’ that our Western colleagues put to the foreground, means that escalation came first. I already said how that escalation had begun. It began February 22.”

“And now it is necessary to start a constitutional reform in parallel with army withdrawal, in parallel with the bridling of the Right Sector [far-right ultranationalist movement] and disarmament of its militants and their likes,” he said.

“It is necessary to not only say that the Kiev authorities invite representatives of regions to extensive dialogue but to specifically convene something like a round table or a constitutional assembly, regardless of the name, and absorb the demands of regions and achieve compromises,” the foreign minister said.

“This is the key to the Ukrainians’ ability to define their own destiny themselves, without dictation from outside, and strengthen their statehood,” he said.

“Otherwise, each newly elected president, as it has happened, will have to change the constitution to adapt it to his needs. This happens each time during the latest election cycles in Ukraine,” Lavrov said.

“This is the recipe to break the vicious circle. I don’t see any other way out,” he said.

The situation in Ukraine is far from stable after a coup occurred in the country in February following months of anti-government protests, often violent, triggered by President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to suspend the signing of an association agreement with the European Union in November 2013 in order to study the deal more thoroughly.

Yanukovich had to leave the country citing security concerns. Amid riots, during which radicals seized some government buildings in Kiev, new people were brought to power, whom Russia does not recognize as Ukraine's legitimate leaders. The self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities appear unable to restrict radicals and ultranationalists.

The crisis deepened when Crimea, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the de facto Ukrainian leadership. Crimea held a referendum on March 16, in which it overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. A relevant deal with Moscow was signed on March 18.

After the reunification, which Kiev and Western countries do not accept despite Russia’s repeated statements that the Crimean plebiscite was in line with the international law, protests against the new Ukrainian authorities erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern territories, with demonstrators taking control of some government buildings and demanding referendums on the country’s federalization.

Ukrainian parliament-appointed acting president Alexander Turchinov on April 15 announced the start of an antiterrorism operation in the Donetsk Region, apparently aimed to crack down on pro-federalization protesters. The operation was suspended for Easter holidays but then resumed.

Lavrov also said after a meeting with Bassil that the West’s support of the Kiev authorities means that it is unwilling to promote the establishment of a national unity government in Ukraine.

The Russian foreign minister recalled that “three leaders of the coalition that committed a coup d’etat had put their signatures under the February 21 agreement. The German, Polish and French foreign ministers’ signatures are also under it”.

“The formation of a transitional government of national unity [in Ukraine] is the first clause of this agreement,” he said.

“But already the next day, the agreement was torn up by those who signed it,” Lavrov said.

“An anti-constitutional coup took place instead of the sequence mentioned in the agreement, which included [the establishment of a] national unity government, then a constitutional reform with simultaneous disarmament of illegal formations and then elections on the basis of the new constitution,” he said.

“It has been announced that there will be no national unity government, the constitution has been pushed aside, and the idea to hold presidential elections not on the basis of a new constitution but already on May 25 has been put to the foreground,” Lavrov said.

“That’s why, when the United States and European partners defend the actions of these authorities who committed a coup d’etat and treaded the document they signed themselves, it means in essence that they do not support the establishment of a national unity government in Ukraine as a transitional structure that would be able, with account for the interests of all regions, to ensure work on a new constitution, then the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections on the basis of the constitution adopted by the people,” he said.

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