Russia's Lavrov open to more talks on Ukraine if the rebels are included
Foreign minister's Kiev counterpart rejects the idea, saying no place in negotiations for them
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said yesterday he was open to another round of international talks on easing the Ukraine crisis - if they include pro-Russian rebels in the east and south of Ukraine.
But his Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Deshchytsia, said the insurgents have no place at such negotiations.
Lavrov also demanded that Ukrainian government troops end their armed assaults on rebel strongholds, as fighting flared for control of the strategic eastern city of Slovyansk. Ukraine's interior ministry reported 30 rebels and four government soldiers were killed in those clashes.
"The army should not intervene in the political process," Lavrov said, urging an end to its deployment against insurgents as a starting point to any settlement of the crisis.
Intense fighting has cast a large shadow over the chances of a deal agreed in Geneva last month taking hold.
The Russian-Ukrainian impasse on who should be represented at any new round additionally clouded hopes for a quick diplomatic fix to the Ukraine crisis. Lavrov, speaking outside a foreign ministers' meeting of the 47-nation Council of Europe, said a follow-up round would not "have any added value" unless representatives of the rebels are also invited.
"Those who protest ... want their voices heard," he said. "They want to have an equal voice when it comes to deciding the fate of their own country." Deshchytsia said there was no need, however, because "as the Ukraine government, we do represent all the regions of Ukraine".
After a week that has been the deadliest since the separatist uprising began, both sides have begun burying their dead.
In Kramatorsk, a separatist-held town in the east that saw an advance by Ukrainian troops at the weekend, the coffin of 21-year-old nurse Yulia Izotova was carried through streets stilled by barricades of tyres and tree trunks on Monday.
At the Holy Trinity Church, seven priests led mourners in prayer for a woman killed by large calibre bullets, which the townsfolk believe were fired by Ukrainian troops.
In Odessa, where more than 40 people were killed on Friday, in the worst day of violence since a February revolt toppled Ukraine's pro-Russian president, pall-bearers carried Andrey Biryukov's open casket from a van to the street corner where he was shot. A pro-Ukrainian activist, Biryukov was 35.
Reuters, Associated Press