Plea for Ukraine talks marred by violence

GERMAN foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for talks between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government yesterday, despite the deaths of seven Ukrainian soldiers in the country’s eastern region.

Arriving in Kiev, Steinmeier said that he hoped to launch “round table” discussions and a “national dialogue” which would help to disarm rebel groups and end the country’s civil strife.

The call for dialogue was hampered yesterday by the deaths of seven of Ukraine’s military personnel outside of Kramatorsk, one of the contested cities in the country’s troubled east.

The defence ministry in Kiev said that dozens of rebels had attacked a military column with explosives and automatic weapons.

The violence follows two referendums over the weekend which separatist groups claimed had a high turnout and were almost entirely in favour of separation from the Ukrainian state.

Despite the call for discussion, Steinmeier said that the ballots held in the eastern provinces of Ukraine were illegal and that all parts of the country should participate in a national election held this month.

Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said in a statement yesterday that the solution to the violence was in Moscow rather than Kiev, and that the Russian government was supporting terrorists in Ukraine.