May 8, 2014 / 6:08 AM / 5 years ago

Ukraine ready for talks with the east, not with 'terrorists'

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine’s government is ready to talk to political parties and regional officials in eastern regions on ways to resolve the country’s crisis, but will not talk to “terrorists”, the Foreign Ministry said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Wednesday for talks between Ukraine’s new pro-Western leaders and separatists in the east, a move which Kiev said suggested his U-turn was evidence that international pressure on Moscow was working.

“The absolute priority for the government of Ukraine is a full-scale national dialogue with the participation of political forces, regional representatives and the public,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “But dialogue is impossible and unthinkable with terrorists.”

Kiev calls the pro-Russian separatists, who now control swathes of eastern Ukraine, “terrorists” or “bandits” who are supported by Russia as part of efforts to destabilise Ukraine.

Russia denies playing any role in the uprising in Ukraine’s east, saying pro-Russian speakers are simply defending their rights against possible attacks by the pro-Western government.

But Putin’s words on Wednesday could signal a softening of his position in the worst crisis between East and West since the Cold War. Putin also called on separatists to postpone a referendum on independence for May 11 and announced he was pulling Russian troops back from the Ukrainian border.

The ministry also said it was waiting for evidence that the troops had moved from the border.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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