BEIJING, April 15 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected allegations on Tuesday levied by Kiev that Russia could cancel the upcoming four-party talks on the Ukrainian crisis in Geneva.
“Don't believe them, that’s all false," Lavrov said Tuesday after a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing.
Lavrov also called baseless the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s claims that the domestic political situation in Ukraine will not be discussed at the meeting.
“That's exactly what we plan to discuss," Lavrov said, adding the agenda for the talks will be de-escalation, disarmament of illegal groups, constitutional reform and elections.
The negotiations, scheduled for Thursday, are to be attended by top officials from the US, EU, Russia and Ukraine and are part of the diplomatic effort to resolve the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, where protests have recently intensified in the country’s eastern regions.
“We’re ready for the meeting, in general. We believe that this will be a useful format," Lavrov said, adding it would be a chance to tell the United States “who they brought into power."
The Russian foreign minister said, however, that the use of force by Ukrainian authorities against pro-federalization protesters will undermine the chances of holding the talks.
“I've reiterated several times that if force is used in the Southeast, then, most likely, it will undermine chances of holding the meeting being planned right now in Geneva," Lavrov said.
Moscow believes that the use of force in southeastern Ukraine is unacceptable and condemns preparations for a violent crackdown on protesters in the country, he said.
The rallies of pro-federalization activists began last month in eastern Ukraine, with protesters in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv calling for a referendum on the autonomy of their respective regions. On Saturday, the protests spread to several more cities of Donetsk region, including Slaviansk, Mariupol, Yenakievo, Kramatorsk and a number of small towns, where protesters seized government buildings.
In Slaviansk, in the country's eastern Donetsk Region, Ukrainian security forces launched an operation Sunday to quash unrest by demonstrators who had seized local government buildings. At least one person was killed and nine injured in the clashes, according to local health officials. Activists said at least three people died.
Following the developments, Ukraine’s acting President Oleksander Turchynov announced the launch of a “full-scale anti-terrorist operation" against pro-federalization protesters, to include the use of military forces.