Ukraine crisis: Russia rules out new Geneva talks

Ukraine crisis: Russia rules out new Geneva talks

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Russia’s foreign minister has ruled out holding fresh talks in Geneva to defuse the Ukraine crisis, unless pro-Russian opposition groups are involved.
Sergei Lavrov added there was no point as an April accord between the US, EU and Russia had not been implemented.
He spoke after a Council of Europe meeting which was expected to support Ukraine’s plans for a 25 May election. But Mr Lavrov called an election “unusual” at a time when the army was being used against the population.Ukrainian acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia said Ukraine was ready to back a new round of talks in Geneva as long as Moscow supported presidential elections.
“If Russia is ready to commit itself to support these elections and to eliminate this threat and eliminate its support for the extremist elements in Ukraine, we are ready to have such a round of meetings,” he said at a news conference.
Mr Deshchytsia later appealed for international observers to be sent to Ukraine to monitor the elections on 25 May.
“[We] also asked the partners to make everything possible to eliminate the external threats and provocations supported by Russia in Ukraine to allow these elections to take place in a free and democratic way,” he added.
OSCE Chairman Didier Burkhalter said there should be a ceasefire in Ukraine ahead of the May presidential election – as holding it is very difficult in the current situation, the AFP news agency reports.
Crackdown
In recent days, security forces have launched a crackdown on pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, triggering clashes outside the town of Sloviansk.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Tuesday that four soldiers and an estimated 30 separatists had been killed in the “anti-terrorism operation”.
He said that up to 800 well-trained militants armed with large-calibre weapons and mortars were hiding among civilians in the town, where government buildings have been seized and checkpoints set up.
A Russia Today reporter in Sloviansk said residents were stockpiling food and there were barricades on almost every road.
Meanwhile, many flights in and out of Donetsk were suspended. The Ukrainian aviation authorities gave no reason for the move.
New checkpoints were earlier set up around Kiev. The interior ministry said it wanted to prevent the movement of weapons and explosives.
The authorities also attempted to re-establish control over Odessa, with Interim President Olexander Turchynov dismissing the acting head of the regional administration, Volodymyr Nemyrovskyy.
Forty-six people died in the Black Sea city on Friday in a fire at an official building and fighting between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protesters.
‘Added value’
At a news conference in Vienna on Tuesday, Mr Lavrov said holding further international talks on Ukraine as some have suggested would be like “going round in circles”.
Instead, he explained, the government in Kiev and their Western backers needed to implement the series of steps to resolve the crisis that they had agreed in Geneva on 17 April.
Under the agreement, all parties, including the separatists in eastern Ukraine, were to “refrain from violence, intimidation and provocative acts”. It also said those occupying buildings would have to leave them and be disarmed in return for an amnesty.
They also agreed to an inclusive constitutional process that would include the establishment of a broad national dialogue and consideration of proposed amendments.
Mr Lavrov said he was not against a follow-up meeting to discuss the accord, but that it would not “have any added value” unless representatives of the separatists were invited.
The 25 May presidential election was called after pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown by pro-Western protesters in February.
“Scheduling an election during a time when the army is being used against a part of the population is not conventional – it’s not Afghanistan,” Mr Lavrov noted.
Earlier, French President Francois Hollande warned that there would be “chaos and the risk of civil war” if the election did not take place.
He told French radio on Tuesday that it was in Russia’s interests to allow it “because it does not want to be seen as a country that wants to prevent another country – in this case Ukraine – from voting”.
“Pressure must be put on it by all of Europe and by the United States through sanctions,” Mr Hollande added.
The EU and US imposed sanctions on individuals and companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle”, as well as separatist leaders in Ukraine, when the Crimean peninsula was annexed in March by Russia.
Kiev has rejected the pro-Russian activists’ demands for greater autonomy for eastern regions, fearing they could lead to the break-up of the country or more regions being annexed.
Separatists in Donetsk have proclaimed a “People’s Republic” and are preparing to hold an independence referendum on Sunday. – BBC News

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