Top diplomats seek Ukraine solution in Paris talks

 

The BBC's Ben Brown says Russian forces prevented him from speaking to Ukrainian staff at the gates

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has held talks with counterparts from the US and key EU states to try to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

After the talks Mr Lavrov said it was agreed to continue discussions in the coming days but admitted that everyone was "concerned" at events.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the talks were "tough" but that there were some concrete ideas to work on.

The EU earlier offered 11bn euros ($15bn; £9bn) of aid to Ukraine.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the package of loans and grants over the next couple of years was "designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms-oriented government" in Kiev.

Analysis

In return for its billions, the EU wants an inclusive government in Ukraine. That does not sound all that far off from what the Russian foreign minister said when he demanded a return to the 21 February agreement signed in Kiev. It spoke of a government of national unity.

However, I am told that is the wrong interpretation, as the EU believes the administration it is seeking is already in place.

As for the money, some 600m euros is already there. The rest of the 11bn euros needs to be signed off by member states and the European Parliament. Of that, some 5bn euros will come directly from the biggest investor in Ukraine, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). While Mr Barroso said the money would be handed over in the next two years, the EBRD is talking about the next five or six. So while this is a substantial sum, it will be disbursed slowly.

Ukraine's finance ministry has predicted it needs $35bn to rescue the economy.

The EU also froze the assets of 18 Ukrainians, accused of involvement in a deadly crackdown on protesters.

In other developments:

  • Hundreds of pro-Russian demonstrators have stormed the regional government building in Donetsk for the second time in recent days
  • Gunmen in Crimea threatened the UN secretary-general's envoy, Robert Serry, but he is reported safe
  • Russian forces have seized two Ukrainian missile-defence sites in Crimea, according to unconfirmed reports
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discuss crisis in telephone call
Nato pledge

Mr Lavrov met Mr Kerry and counterparts from the UK, Germany and France on the sidelines of a long-planned conference on Lebanon in Paris.

The Russian minister said it was agreed that all sides needed to respect an EU-brokered peace deal signed last month.

The US state department, however, denied any agreement had been reached.

The 21 February deal granted major concessions to the opposition, but pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled before it could be implemented.

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One thing that makes Vladimir Putin mad is the feeling that he is being deceived”

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"We had a long day of discussions on Ukraine," Mr Lavrov said.

"We are all concerned at what is happening there. We agreed to continue those discussions in the days to come... and that's it."

Mr Kerry said he had some concrete ideas to take back to President Barack Obama, adding: "I'd rather be where we are today than where we were yesterday."

Nato and Russia held parallel talks in Brussels.

Afterwards, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the organisation was reviewing all cooperation with Russia and was stepping up its engagement with the government in Kiev.

The US and Russia had appeared far from compromise in the lead-up to the Paris talks.

The US wants independent observers in the flashpoint region of Crimea and direct talks between Kiev and Moscow.

Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, march outside a Ukrainian military base near the Crimean capital Simferopol on 5 March 2014 Troops believed to be Russian servicemen are in control of Ukrainian military bases in Crimea
Man lights a candle at a memorial for the protesters who died in clashes with police in Kiev, on 5 March 2014 Mourners at Kiev's Independence Square remember the 88 protesters who died in clashes with police
Demonstrators holding a Russian flag, with the Ukrainian emblem in the background, stand on the balcony of the regional administrative building after storming it in Donetsk Pro-Russian protesters stormed the Donetsk government building hours after they were forced out

Russia was expected to call for greater representation for Ukraine's Russian-speaking areas in the Kiev government.

Leaked call

In the US, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel announced plans to expand US military co-operation with Poland and Baltic states.

Analysis

The first of two sophisticated naval landing ships being built in France for the Russian navy is to set sail on Wednesday afternoon for its initial sea trials. The vessel - the Vladivostok - is based upon the Mistral class already in service with the French navy. The deal was signed in June 2011. The vessel can operate smaller landing craft and helicopters and would significantly enhance Russia's amphibious capabilities.

The deal to sell such a sophisticated piece of equipment to Moscow has always been controversial; even more so today given the crisis in Ukraine with the French government insisting that if there is no de-escalation of tensions, then rapid EU sanctions could follow.

The timing is perhaps a little delicate for Paris, with high-level talks on the crisis under way in the French capital. But at least this is not the Vladivostok's sister vessel that is putting to sea - that is to be named Sevastopol.

He said the US would step up joint aviation training with Poland, and increase its participation in Nato's mission to police the air space of Baltic countries.

The announcement was a direct response to concerns raised last week by Poland, he said.

Meanwhile, a recording of a phone conversation between EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has been leaked on the internet.

In the recording, Mr Paet told Baroness Ashton that there was an "increasing understanding" in Ukraine that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych's government was not responsible for the deaths of police and protesters during clashes last month in Kiev.

He said some Ukrainians believed elements from within the new regime in Kiev had employed snipers.

He said Ukrainian doctor Olga Bogomolets had told him that victims from both sides were shot by snipers using the same weapons.

However, Dr Bogomolets told the UK's Telegraph newspaper that she had never had access to victims from the government side and was unable to comment on how they had been killed.

Mr Paet confirmed that the conversation with Baroness Ashton had taken place on 26 February.

Sergei Lavrov accused protesters of conducting an "armed coup d'etat"

In a news conference on Wednesday, he called for an inquiry into the deaths in Kiev, but warned against using his comments to discredit the new government.

"I call for journalists to treat this recording very carefully. I was talking about the theories there were about what happened in Ukraine," he said.

Mr Yanukovych fled Ukraine shortly after the bloodshed and is now in Russia.

Moscow has since flooded the Crimea region with military personnel, claiming that Mr Yanukovych had asked for their help.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) says it has sent 35 unarmed military monitors to Ukraine in response to a request from Kiev.

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 2066.

    The Western nations double standard policies make them laughable and not credible in the global arena at least by large nations Russia, China, Brazil, India and Indonesia. Even few small nations do not care about these so called Western leaders. WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden exposed the dark side of the US that is insane and what is wrong if Russia wants to protect their own citizens or interests?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 2065.

    1953. SocialistNetwork

    Could you please fully clarify what you mean by your comment in respect to justifying the Russians invading Ukraine.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 2064.

    2044. Mayna.
    So you would do nothing I suppose, appease the bear, let him take provinces by gunpoint at will. Shame on you.
    They are tactical weapons, all this hokus pokus nonsense about "radiation"and "ozone layer"and "nuclear winter". We can reduce their superior numbers to zero with a well planned and executed attack. They would be left reeling with no hope of mounting an effective conterstrike

  • Comment number 2063.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 2062.

    Would we defend the rights of the Falkland Islanders or the Gibraltarians i.e. our own people? I would hope so.

    I am afraid the Russians have more reason to interfere in Crimea than our Governments seem to understand or care.

    Our own meddling in recent years gives us no right to wag a finger.

 

Comments 5 of 2066

 

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