Saturday, May 10, 2014

Russia asks West to persuade Ukraine govt.

Russia has called on the United States and European countries to urge Ukraine's interim government to hold dialogue with pro-Russian groups in the eastern region.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had telephone conversations with his German, French and US counterparts on Thursday.

The move follows a failed attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to postpone a referendum in eastern Ukraine. He proposed establishing a dialogue between Kiev and pro-Russian groups, but it was rejected.

The Russian Foreign Ministry says that Lavrov spoke with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and expressed deep concern over continued military operations by the interim government.

Lavrov told French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that the scheduled presidential election would be meaningless unless the interim government stops military operations and hold talks with pro-Russian residents.

In talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Lavrov called on Western countries to use their influence with the interim government to urge dialogue and ease tensions.

Also on Thursday, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that starting next month Ukraine must pay for natural gas in advance.

He said Ukraine has not paid for Russian gas since March and owes 3.5 billion dollars.

Russia is apparently ready to halt natural gas delivery to Ukraine unless the interim government agrees to a prepaid deal.

The move is raising concerns as European countries import Russian gas through pipelines in Ukraine.

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