Lavrov reiterates need for greater autonomy

Kiev’s troubles are rooted not in its relations with Moscow but in its ‘deep crisis of statehood.’

March 31, 2014 01:28 am | Updated November 16, 2021 06:22 pm IST - MOSCOW:

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. File Photo

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. File Photo

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has again called for federalisation of Ukraine as a key condition for resolving the crisis in the former Soviet state.

Ahead of his talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris late on Sunday, Mr. Lavrov said the main difference between Russia and the U.S. was whether Ukraine’s Russian-speaking regions should have autonomy from the government in Kiev.

In an interview to Russia’s state run TV Channel One on Sunday, he said the Western powers wanted Russia to engage Ukraine in direct talks, while the West would “supervise” these talks through a “contact group”.

This was “unacceptable” because Ukraine’s troubles were rooted, not in its relations with Russia, but in its “deep crisis of statehood.”

Direct talks pointless

Moscow sees no point in direct talks with Kiev because the Ukrainian leaders have rejected Russia’s key demand — transforming Ukraine from a unitary state into a federation of autonomous regions.

Mr. Lavrov said that Russia has proposed setting up “a Ukraine support group”, together with the U.S. and the European Union, in order to promote a dialogue among Ukraine’s different political forces and regions on a “new Constitution of Ukraine that would establish a federative system, affirm its non-bloc status and guarantee the rights of all those who live in Ukraine — we are concerned of course above all about Russians, but also Czech, Hungarians, Germans and other ethnic groups.”

Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry hastily arranged their meeting in Paris following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to U.S. President Barack Obama late on Friday. Thousands of demonstrators in Kharkiv, in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking south-east, again took to the streets on Sunday to demand a referendum on greater autonomy. A similar rally took place in Donetsk, a mining centre in eastern Ukraine.

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