World Bulletin / News Desk
Ukraine's acting foreign minister said on Saturday his country would not give up Crimea and would do all in its power to resolve the crisis over the Black Sea peninsula peacefully.
Andriy Deshchytsia also urged Russia to do more to ensure foreign observers can enter Crimea and made a new call for the creation of an international "contact group" to discuss the crisis over the region, now controlled by Russian forces.
"Crimea is and will be Ukrainian territory and we will not give up Crimea to anyone," Deshchytsia told a news conference in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
Referring to deaths this year during protests against Ukraine's now deposed leader, Viktor Yanukovich, he said: "We are putting all our efforts into solving this matter through diplomacy - we have already had too many victims."
Reiterating Ukraine's readiness to negotiate with Russia, he said a contact group should be set up to help get negotiations going although this was "only a small step forward".
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday Washington wanted a contact group established to outline moves to reduce tensions and allow for Russian troops to return to barracks in Crimea, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet has a base.
"We want to keep good relations with the Russian people because we understand that we will live together in the future," Deshchytsia said. "I hope cold reason and belief in the future will prevail."
He urged Russia to use its influence to ensure foreign monitors are able to enter Crimea. Military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been invited to go to the southern Ukrainian region by the national government, but have had to turn back at roadblocks.
Russian FM Lavrov indicates no change in stance
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday the new Ukrainian government should stick to an agreement signed by the ousted president, signalling no change in Moscow's position over the Crimea crisis.
The peace deal on Feb. 21 between now-deposed President Viktor Yanukovich and leaders of what were then opposition parties foresaw the creation of a national unity government and an investigation into the deaths of protesters in Kiev.
"This document is not being adhered to in terms of the obligations which these people undertook," Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow.
Yanukovich was backed by Moscow, which is worried by the new Ukrainian government's plans to forge closer ties with the European Union in a geopolitical battle between East and West over the fate of the former Soviet republic.
Lavrov said Moscow was ready for dialogue but accused the government in Kiev of taking orders from people he described as extremists and denied Moscow had any direct role in the crisis in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
Russian forces in uniforms with no markings have surrounded Ukrainian bases on the peninsula since they took control of it last week, and the region's pro-Russia separatist leadership has ordered the Ukrainians to surrender.
"The interim government... is not independent. It depends, unfortunately, on radical nationalists who carried out an armed coup," Lavrov said.
No one can cancel referendum
The pro-Russia prime minister of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula has defended a decision to hold a referendum on whether the region should join Russia, saying on Saturday that "no one" could cancel the voting.
On Thursday, Crimea's parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia and set a referendum for March 16, escalating the crisis.
The conflict resulted from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after protests in Kiev that led to violence.
European Union leaders and the U.S. President Barack Obama have said the referendum plan is illegitimate and would violate Ukraine's constitution.
But Sergei Aksyonov said the local government would go ahead with the public vote.
"The Supreme Council deputies of Crimea have univocally fulfilled the decision of the Crimeans, they voted for holding the referendum on March 16, and no one is able to cancel it," he was quoted by Itar-Tass state news agency as saying to Russian televison.
He said the referendum was called at such short notice to "avoid provocations, as the situation in Ukraine is quite tense".Last Mod: 08 Mart 2014, 14:17