Lavrov says Russia ‘not interested in breaking up’ Ukraine

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Russia’s foreign minister said Wednesday that Moscow was not interested in breaking up Ukraine despite respecting declarations of independence by the two main eastern regions.

“We expressed full respect for the results (of the May referendums) and said the political implementation of what the citizens of southeast Ukraine voted for must be realised through negotiations. We are not interested in breaking up (Ukraine),” Sergei Lavrov said during a meeting with Kremlin supporters in central Russia.

The predominantly Russian-speaking regions of Lugansk and Donetsk held disputed votes for independence in the wake of Moscow’s March annexation of Crimea that have been dismissed as illegal by Kiev and its Western allies.

The two regions have since been overrun by pro-Kremlin insurgents who are waging a brutal war against government forces that is believed to have killed nearly 2,300 people and displaced tens of thousands.

Lavrov said it was in the interests of both Moscow and Kiev “to preserve a large Russian population in Ukraine, so that Ukraine was a comfortable place for Russians.”

He added without elaborating that a decision by the International Committee of the Red Cross to formally label the conflict a civil war “forces us to base our approach (to Ukraine) on positions provided for by international law.”

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