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Russia urges West to back 'federal' solution for Ukraine

AFP , Sunday 30 Mar 2014
Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides in Moscow March 28, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday called on Western powers to back a proposal for Ukraine's Russian-speaking regions to have greater powers in a "federal" structure.

"If our Western partners are ready, then Russia, the United States and the European Union could form a support group on Ukraine and formulate shared appeals to those now in power in Kiev," Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state television.

This would lead to talks between "all Ukrainian political forces without exception, naturally excluding armed radicals" and would end in a new constitution allowing for a "federal structure" with greater regional autonomy, he said.

The interview was broadcast as Lavrov was due to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry for hastily arranged talks in Paris later Sunday.

Russia backs the idea of greater regional autonomy because millions of Russian speakers are concentrated in Ukraine's eastern regions as well as in Crimea.

This would "protect the rights of those who live in Ukraine, primarily of course the Russian population which is important to us," Lavrov said.

Lavrov acknowledged that his first talks with Ukraine's interim foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsya last week ended without any agreement on Moscow's federalisation plan.

"Andriy Deshchytsya said our proposal was unacceptable because federalisation contradicts the basic principles of Ukraine's state structure."

"I don't understand why. I don't know any such principles," Lavrov said.

He added that Deshchytsya also rejected a proposal to make Russian the second official language in Ukraine.

Addressing fears of Russia's massing troops on Ukraine's borders, Lavrov said that "we do not pursue any evil designs and are open to honest talks as before."

"However, no one has cancelled the right that every state has to move its forces on its own territory," he added.

In an interview broadcast Saturday Lavrov said that Russia had "absolutely no intention" for its troops to cross the Ukrainian border.

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