US must urge Ukraine to end military campaign – Lavrov

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Russia’s foreign minister urged US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday to use his influence over Ukraine’s leaders to convince them to suspend a military offensive in the separatist east. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “urged the United States to use its influence with the Kiev authorities to nudge them toward a more realistic assessment of the situation, making them realize the hopelessness of using force to resolve a domestic conflict,” the Russian foreign ministry said after the two diplomats spoke by telephone.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a telephone call with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, urged Washington to pressure Ukraine’s interim government to stop its military operation in eastern Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Shellings and airstrikes make dialogue in Ukraine impossible – Lavrov

Ukrainian crisis cannot be resolved without direct contacts with representatives of the South-East of Ukraine who are trying to defend their rights, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the Postscriptum program of the TVC channel. The West is still trying to present the situation as the need to solve the problems between Russia and Ukraine, Lavrov stressed.

“[Western countries] are still trying to present the situation as the need to settle the problem between Russia and Ukraine, closing their eyes to the fact that the essence of the crisis is the problem connected with the Kiev authorities’ failure to establish a respectful dialogue with citizens living in the South East who denounced the February coup and vigorously protested against the attempts to adopt laws banning the use of the Russian language, which infringes the rights of the Russian-speaking and Russian population,” Lavrov stated.

“Instead of holding out a hand to these people, inviting them to the negotiating table and agreeing on how all those who are now living in the country should live there, the military operation is still underway. Elected President Petr Poroshenko said he would stop it and would stand for a dialogue and de-escalation. There were meetings in Kiev with the participation of OSCE representatives. But this is not enough. It is important that contacts are established directly with those people in the South-East who want to defend their rights. Naturally, shellings and air strikes of combat aircrafts make such a dialogue impossible,” says Lavrov.

He drew attention to the fact that after his victory, Poroshenko announced an intention to establish a dialogue with the East. In Lavrov’s opinion, the ways to do this are stated in the Geneva Declaration adopted after the consultations of the Russian Federation, the USA, the EU and Ukraine, as well as in the OSCE roadmap.

“The first step should be putting an end to the use of the military against the civilian population and then establishing a dialogue between all regions of Ukraine in order to come to an agreement on how to decentralize power and what should be done to ensure that citizens of every region could elect their governors, could work, live and bring up their children in the language, which they prefer, and to keep a certain part of taxes. You can call it as you like – federalization or decentralization. The essence is the main thing and not the name. But the first step, undoubtedly and unconditionally, is termination of military operations,” he said.

Poroshenko draws a line between the two terms – decentralization and federalization. In his first speech after the inauguration, he said that Ukraine would remain a unitary state, but decentralization was scheduled for 2014; meanwhile, there would be no federalization.

Russia should use Finnish experience of resolving ethnic minorities’ issues – Lavrov

During his visit to Finland, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov received assurance that Finland has no plans to join NATO and suggested using the Finnish experience in resolving minority and language issues.

“Finnish President [Sauli] Niinisto suggested imagining that Finland is suddenly a NATO member, and it will immediately double the length of the NATO-Russia border. He added that, if Sweden takes this path too, the Baltic Sea will essentially become an internal sea of NATO. Do Northern Europeans need that and how Russia will react – President Niinisto asked these questions, making it pretty clear that he knows the answer and it is negative – no one needs that,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview aired on the program Postsriptum on TVTs television.

The Finnish president is fully aware of the fact that events such as those that are now happening in Ukraine are impossible in Finland by definition, Lavrov said.

“Nevertheless, they rule out encroachments on the rights of any minorities. It is known that only 6.5% of the population of today’s Finland are ethnic Swedes, but the Swiss language has state status,” he said.

In Ukraine, one third to half of the population are ethnic Russians and more than half of the country’s citizens speak Russian, but there is no decision to make Russian a second state language, he said.

“We should follow the Finns’ model of living in a state, resolving the issues of minorities, and establish relations between citizens,” the minister said.

Statements by Polish foreign minister on “confrontation” between Russia, NATO are inappropriate – Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the statements made by his Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski, who said that “it is better for Russia to be an ally of the West than a vassal of China,” are inappropriate.

“It’s difficult to understand it. Sikorski quoted Brzezinski as saying it is better for Russia to be an ally of the West than a vassal of China. However, it’s one thing when such statements are made an old political scientist who does not hold any state posts and can afford to make irresponsible statements, but it’s a different thing when the incumbent foreign minister of a large European country quotes this political scientist and reiterates that he fully agrees with him. It’s inappropriate for a serious politician to make such statements,” Lavrov said in an interview aired on the program Postsriptum on TVTs television.

“Radoslaw Sikorski also said Russia will lose confrontation with NATO because the ratio of forces is 1 to 16. Who is going to go to war with NATO and who in NATO is going to war with Russia I don’t know,” the Russian minister said.

Lavrov said the statements made by his Polish counterpart are connected to his wish to “run for some European post.”

“His name was mentioned in regard of the possible future staff reshuffle in the EU and NATO. I don’t rule out that he is making such statements to draw attention to himself,” Lavrov said.

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