Ukraine Ready for Talks with Separatists, Gas Payment
Ukraine's government has announced it is ready to engage in talks with parties and regional representatives in the east, where unrest has been ongoing for weeks.
The statement by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin called for talks between separatists and the interim Kiev leadership, which for its part followed an "anti-terrorist" operation having left tens of people dead in some Ukrainian regions.
Ministry representatives have however said they would not negotiate with "terrorists", which include rebels who have spurred unrest, as Ukraine's UNIAN agency reports.
Putin has also embarked on what many describe as a concession, declaring that Russian troops are to withdraw from along the Ukrainian border.
He urged pro-Russian activists, who have seized a number of government buildings across Southern and Eastern Ukraine, to put off a referendum of independence which is to be held May 11 in the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic", as well as in Luhansk, where preparations for Sunday's vote are also under way.
Protesters are yet to decide whether to accept his offer, according to the BBC. They have repeatedly declared loyalty to Russian authorities, but are expected to announce their final stance on Monday. A Donetsk pro-Russian leader was quoted as saying that Putins'proposal is to be put forward for discussion at the "people's concil".
NATO earlier expressed concerns at Moscow's troops buildup at western Russian borders and adopted a set of measures to step up the defense at its eastern flank. Estimates suggest the Kremlin had stationed some 40 000 soldiers near Ukraine, and some alliance representatives aggression could follow.
Partial concessions have also followed on behalf of the Ukrainian government, after acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said his country would pay its debts to Russia's energy giant Gazprom in ten days if the company agrees to reintroduce the reduced price for its gas deliveries, which was USD 268.5 per 1000 cubic meters.
In April, Gazprom scrapped a special pricing regime that had previously existed for Ukraine's Naftogaz and said that under new rules Kiev was to be charged USD 485 for the same amount.
Kiev's latest proposal followed a statement by the International Monetary Fund that Ukraine could use the first tranche (USD 3.2 B) of a total of USD 17 B it will receive from the organization to deliver on its gas debts.
Russia is expected to decline the offer, as Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Ukraine had "no right" to unilaterally revise the price it pays for gas.