Ukraine crisis: PM says regions should have more powers

Apr 11 2014, 20:54 IST
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SummaryUkraine's prime minister on Friday told leaders in the country's restive east that he is committed to allowing regions to have more powers, but left it unclear how his ideas differ from the demands of protesters now occupying government buildings or from Russia's advocacy of federalization.

will repress them. Kiev and Western officials, in turn, claim that Russia is whipping up tensions in the east, with the aim of establishing a pretext for sending in troops. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied any participation by Russia in the events in the east, saying on Rossiya television on Friday that ''our servicemen aren't there. Our agents aren't there.''

He also said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine and ''we want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders.'' He also dismissed earlier calls by the eastern Ukraine protesters for Russia to send in peacekeeping forces.

Russia is calling on Ukraine to change its constitution to become a federalized state in which regions would have more control of their own affairs. Ukraine's government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country's breakup.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who was visiting Bulgaria on Friday again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine's borders, and added that NATO is taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability created by Russia's ''illegitimate'' actions.

Speaking in Prague, Czech President Milos Zeman called on NATO and the European Union to take robust pre-emptive actions to deter Russia from invading other parts of Ukraine after its takeover of Crimea. He stopped short of giving details.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones. Romania, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

In a bid to apply pressure on Russia, the European Union has warned Moscow of further sanctions for ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine.

A senior European Union official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the 28-nation bloc's foreign ministers would consider broadening the list of people sanctioned to deter Russia from further destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.

The person, who was briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said ministers at Monday's meeting in Luxembourg aren't expected to decide new sanctions but could agree on ordering the preparation of a new list of targets.

Russia's Lavrov on Friday blamed the crisis on the West and its support for Ukraine's fledging government which he described as illegitimate. Lavrov said the solution to the crisis would be a ''deep'' constitutional reform in Ukraine that would guarantee Ukraine's ''nonaligned status,'' meaning a guarantee that it would not join NATO.

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