Ukraine will not bow to rebel 'blackmail': interim leader

14th May 2014, Comments 0 comments

Ukraine's interim President Oleksandr Turchynov said on Wednesday that Kiev was ready to listen to pro-Russians in the restive east but would not bow to rebel blackmail.

Here are the main comments by Turchynov and other officials at the opening of Western-sponsored national unity talks in the capital:

- "Those with weapons in hand who are waging a war against their own country and dictating the will of a neighbouring country will answer before the law," Turchynov said.

"We will not yield to blackmail," he said.

"We are ready to listen to the people of the east but they must not shoot, loot or occupy government buildings."

- Ukrainian forces have since mid-April been battling pro-Russian insurgents in the east, who have seized dozens of towns and declared independence in the industrial regions of Donetsk and Lugansk following disputed referendums at the weekend.

Despite Western pressure and to Russia's chagrin, the rebels were not invited to the talks being held under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to try to defuse the crisis and allow a planned May 25 president election to go ahead.

- Turchynov also said that Russia's annexation of Crimea in March -- which triggered outrage in Kiev and the West -- had cost his country more than $100 billion (73 billion euros).

He spoke of "ruined infrastructure and occupied businesses" in Crimea, an area with sizeable gas reserves.

The Russian "aggression has not stopped" and has spread to the east, he said. "The situation is explosive in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions."

- Among those sitting at the table on Wednesday were Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, two former Ukrainian heads of state, presidential candidates, lawmakers and religious figures.

German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, appointed by the OSCE to mediate the roadmap, said the talks should contribute to an "electoral process that is inclusive, honest and transparent".

"We are here to promote this process, to help bring Ukraine and Europe together and ensure the country has a prosperous future."

© 2014 AFP

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