Ukraine crisis: Russia ready for peace talks, but Kiev rejects call to include separatists

Donetsk

Russia said that it was willing to attend peace talks on the escalating violence in Ukraine but only if pro-Russian separatists were allowed to go.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, described the separatists as victims of the Kiev government.

Speaking at a meeting of the Council of Europe in Vienna, he said: “Those who protest  want their voices heard. They want to have an equal voice when it comes to deciding the fate of their own country.”

His Ukrainian counterpart rejected the proposal, saying the Kiev government already represents all the people of Ukraine, although the government continued to fight separatists. The Ukrainian Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, said yesterday that 30 pro-Russian separatists and four government troops were killed in fighting around the eastern city of Slovyansk.

Ukrainian troops tightened a security cordon around Slovyansk yesterday but pro-Russia militia acted freely elsewhere in the region.

 

In the south-west, Kiev authorities also attempted to reassert control over the Black Sea region of Odessa by appointing a new governor.

Mr Avakov posted the death toll on his Facebook page, adding that 20 government troops were also injured during fighting in Slovyansk. He said about 800 pro-Russia fighters in and around Slovyansk used heavy machine guns and mortars on Monday. By yesterday, Ukrainian forces had taken hold of a checkpoint north of the city.

In Donetsk, 75 miles south of Slovyansk, the airport was closed during the day to international flights following a government order but reopened later.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (Getty) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (Getty)
In the afternoon, about 30 pro-Russia militants armed with automatic rifles and grenade launchers surrounded an interior ministry base in Donetsk, demanding that the troops inside not join any government operations against pro-Russia forces.

In the south-west, Kiev authorities announced they had dismissed the acting governor in Odessa and replaced him with member of parliament, Ihor Palytsya. Odessa’s police chief was also removed over the weekend.

The dismissals came after 46 people died on Friday, many in a building fire, after pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian demonstrators clashed.

The concern that Odessa could be the next region to fall to pro-Russia forces – particularly after 67 people detained in rioting were released by police under pressure from an angry crowd – has caused concern in Kiev.

AP

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