Kiev will host a new round of OSCE-backed talks aimed at defusing the separatist crisis in the country's east on Wednesday. Government and regional leaders are due to take part but Kiev has refused to negotiate with pro-Russian rebels.
The new negotiations are part of a "road map" drawn up by the Organization for Security and Co-operation and Europe (OSCE), a trans-Atlantic security and crisis management group that includes Russia and the United States among its member states.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk will chair what is expected to be the first in a series of roundtable discussions that will bring together Ukrainian lawmakers and other government figures as well as regional officials.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was in Ukraine on the eve of the talks to push both Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels to take part but it was unclear Wednesday whether Kiev would relent and take part in talks with the separatists.
Russia has strongly backed the road map, but Ukraine has remained cool to the plan and US officials view its prospects for success sceptically.
The OSCE plan calls on all sides to refrain from violence and urges the disarmament of separatest militants but also an amnesty for those involved in the unrest. It pushes for new discussions on decentralising power and a review of the official status of the Russian language, an issue that has been a main point of centention in Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking east.
Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, Yatseniuk thanked the OSCE for the plan but said Ukraine had its own ideas for ending the crisis without providing details.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebiynis criticised the OSCE deal for not placing specific requirements on Russia, which has been accused by both Kiev and the United States of providing material support to the pro-Moscow rebels in the east.
Russia accused Ukraine of refusing to enter into a "real dialogue" with the separatists.
Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko – who is a presidential candidate in the May 25 election – also criticised the authorities in Kiev for failing to engage with the separatists. She urged the government to move the roundtables from the capital to Donetsk, a key city in the secessionist east that has declared independence.
Separatist rebels on Tuesday killed six Ukrainian soldiers in a bloody ambush near the city of Kramatorsk, the defence ministry said, Ukraine's single largest military loss since the start of the crisis.
Parts of eastern Ukraine claimed victory in a referendum on independence and closer ties with Russia over the weekend in a vote that Western powers and Kiev have dismissed as illegitimate.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)
Date created : 2014-05-14