Russia's Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is 'ready for dialogue' with Kiev - but the West should stay out
Kremlin insists Kiev must halt military operation against pro-Russian militiamen
Russia has said it is "ready for dialogue" with Ukraine's newly elected president, Petro Poroshenko, insisting that there is no need for the West to mediate between Kiev and Moscow.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters the Kremlin is ready to engage in talks with chocolate tycoon Poroshenko after yesterday's presidential victory, adding that Russia doesn't "need any mediators" in an apparent reference to the United States and the European Union.
Speaking at a news conference, Mr Lavrov added: "Taking into account the expression of will that has taken place, which we respect, we will be prepared to establish pragmatic, equitable dialogue on the existing foundation - by which I mean the fulfilment of all existing agreements, including in trade and the gas sector."
His comments echoed remarks made by President Vladimir Putin last week, who insisted Russia would "respect" the outcome of Ukraine's presidential elections and played down talks of a new Cold War, softening his tone ahead of Sunday's vote.
However, Moscow's conciliatory rhetoric has been marred by renewed violence in the east, where pro-Russian insurgents continue to engage in gunfire and have halted flights at Donetsk airport. But Mr Lavrov insisted today that Kiev would be making a "colossal" mistake if it steps up its military operation against militiamen, adding that respect must be "mutual".
"When we speak of how voting went and the election results, we cannot close our eyes to the fact that the so-called counter-terrorist operation was not halted," he added. "The chance that now exists to establish mutually respectful, equitable dialogue ... must not be missed."
On Sunday night, billionaire confectioner Petro Poroshenko, known as the 'Chocolate King', claimed victory in the country’s presidential election after exit polls appeared to give him a majority when voting closed with more than 55 per cent of the vote. If confirmed by full results which are expected later today, there will be no need for a runoff ballot on 15 June.
Mr Poroshenko has vowed to end the "war and chaos" in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have seized government buildings and clashed with government forces, and to normalise relations with the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has said the election represents another step towards unifying the country, and that the US is looking forward to working with its new president when the final result is confirmed.
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