Kyiv’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has chaired Ukraine’s first round of talks as part of a Western-backed plan to avert the country’s disintegration. The EU says it hopes eastern Ukraine will be the next venue. OSCE-appointed mediator Wolfgang Ischinger of Germany said Wednesday’s talks were intended as an “inclusive” consultative process aimed at calming down the situation ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election due on May 25. Absent at Wednesday’s talks were pro-Russian gunmen who in recent weeks seized buildings and fought Kyiv government troops across eastern Ukraine, leading up to disputed independence referenda last Sunday.
Turchynov (pictured center) said rebels must first lay down their arms before inclusion in the so-called “round-table” talks. Wednesday’s round involved lawmakers, religious clerics and regional officials.
“We are ready to listen to the people of the east but they must not shoot, loot or occupy government buildings,” said Turchynov, adding that armed individuals would instead “face justice.”
Also absent was the influential Ukrainian industrial magnate Rinat Achmetov. In a video message, however, he called for Ukraine to be kept territorially intact.