Ex-Ukrainian president offers to mediate with pro-Russian rebels

Reuters , Friday 2 Mar 2018

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich offered his services on Friday as an intermediary between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists who control a large part of the east of the country.

Yanukovich, who lives in exile in Russia after fleeing Ukraine in 2014 following protests against his rule, also called on world powers to support direct talks between the two sides, an idea that Kiev flatly rejects.

Talks on implementing a stalled peace agreement for eastern Ukraine involve the leaders of Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia, but not the separatists.

More then 10,000 people have been killed there since 2014 and fatalities are reported on a near-daily basis.

"I will do everything possible, everything that depends on me to stop the war ... to bring the two sides to the negotiating table," Yanukovich told a news conference in Moscow.

He said he planned to offer his help to the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations in the hope that he could facilitate direct talks.

"The main thing is ... to unite (the) Donbass (region) with Ukraine, to maintain the integrity of the Ukrainian state," he said.

The Ukrainian government is unlikely to welcome Yanukovich's initiative. He is currently being tried in absentia in Ukraine on charges of treason, which he denies.

Yanukovich also commented on his ties to Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump's embattled former campaign manager.

Manafort has been charged in the United States with conspiring to launder money, lying on his tax returns and failing to register as a foreign agent for lobbying work for Yanukovich's party, among other charges.

Yanukovich said he had never signed off on payments to Manafort for his work as an adviser to him and his party.

"I did not sign off on any payments for his work and never discussed the subject with him," Yanukovich said.

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