Dialogue likely on steps to implement the Geneva accord
Russia hopes to initiate peace talks in coming days between Ukrainian authorities and rebellious eastern regions even as Kiev presses on with its military crackdown on anti-government protesters.
“I think new efforts will be undertaken in the next few days to bring to the negotiating table Kiev’s authorities and representatives of the southeast in order to resolve problems that cause suffering and death in different parts of Ukraine,” said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, who looks after the former Soviet states.
The statement came hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier discussed the possibility of Ukrainian talks on the phone.
Moscow said the two Ministers agreed “to assist in launching an equal dialogue” between Kiev and eastern rebels “on practical steps” to implement the Geneva accord. The talks are to be mediated by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Mr. Steinmeier “agreed with the need to immediately halt violence and begin implementing the agreements under the Geneva declaration of April 17.”
The Geneva accord called for an end to violence by all sides, disarmament of irregulars, and an “inclusive” constitutional reform Ukraine acceptable to all regions.
However, shortly afterwards, Kiev moved the army and the national guard against the protesters in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeast. Ukrainian authorities and protesters gave conflicting reports on Sunday on the situation in the Donetsk Region, which has been the flashpoint of armed confrontation in recent days.
Kiev claimed to have retaken Kramatorsk and a few smaller towns on Saturday while rebels said that overnight they restored control over the towns.
In Odessa hundreds of residents forced their way into a police station and secured the release of a majority of anti-government protesters arrested following deadly clashes with nationalist radicals on Friday in which 46 people died.
“It is outrageous that they arrested anti-fascist protesters and let go the militants who came from Kiev and massacred Odessa residents,” a demonstrator told Russian television.
Ukraine’s Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who visited Odessa on Sunday, accused Russia and “pro-Russian separatists” of waging “a real war, a war to destroy Ukraine and its independence.”
Moscow said Kiev was “incapable of setting up dialogue without outside help.”
It is up to the international community “to force the Kiev authorities to stop violence in the southeast,” Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin said.