Putin accepts dialogue with Ukraine group

Putin accepted a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel to facilitate talks with a Ukraine ‘contact group’

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Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel to set up a “contact group” aimed at facilitating dialogue in the Ukraine crisis, the German government said on Sunday.

“President Putin accepted the German chancellor’s proposal to immediately establish a mission of enquiry as well as a contact group, possibly under the direction of the the United Nations Security Council or OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), to open a political dialogue,” German government spokesman Georg Streiter said in a statement.

Merkel raised the idea in a phone conversation late Sunday in which she accused Putin of breaking international law with the “unacceptable Russian intervention in Crimea.”

A Kremlin statement said Putin defended Russia’s action against “ultranationalist forces” in Ukraine and insisted measures taken so far were “fully adequate,” the Associated Press reported.

It said Putin directed Merkel’s attention to the “unrelenting threat of violence” to Russian citizens and the Russian-speaking population.

However, it didn’t mention specifically Merkel’s proposal, but highlighted the need to continue “consultations in both a bilateral ... and multilateral format with the aim of cooperating to normalize the socio-political station in Ukraine.”

Merkel told Putin the intervention was a violation of a 1994 Budapest memorandum on security assurances in which Russia committed itself to respecting the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine in its existing borders, as well as the 1997 treaty on the Russian Black Sea fleet, based in Crimea, Agence France-Presse reported.

The memorandum was signed by Britain, Ukraine, Russia and the United States.

The statement said Merkel called on Putin to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity.

On Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama also spoke to Merkel, underscoring Russia’s “complete illegitimacy” when it intervened in Ukraine’s Crimea.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday to stress U.S. political and economic support after Russian forces’ bloodless seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region, a senior U.S. official said on Sunday.

Western allies have condemned Russia’s threat to invade its Western-leaning and former soviet neighbor, which analysts say risks sparking the worst crisis since the Cold War.

NATO allies on Sunday urged the deployment of international observers to Ukraine and said the alliance sought “to engage” with Moscow at NATO-Russia talks.

“We urge both parties to immediately seek a peaceful resolution through dialogue, through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the OSCE,” said a statement issued after almost eight hours of talks between NATO’s 28 ambassadors.

Medvedev predicts ‘new revolution’

In a related story, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Facebook on Sunday that Ukraine’s leaders had seized power illegally, and predicted their rule would end with “a new revolution” and new bloodshed, Reuters reported.

Medvedev said that, while Viktor Yanukovich had practically no authority, he remained the legitimate head of state according the constitution, adding: "If he is guilty before Ukraine - hold an impeachment procedure ... and try him."

“Everything else is lawlessness. The seizure of power,” Medvedev said on his Facebook page.

“And that means such order will be extremely unstable. It will end in a new revolution. New bloodshed.”

The remarks were part of a series of Russian statements attacking the legitimacy of the pro-Western government that has been formed since Yanukovich fled Kiev more than a week ago. He surfaced on Friday in Russia.

(With AFP, Associated Press and Reuters)

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