Ukraine crisis-Kiev mulls referendum

Added On April 15, 2014

The Ukrainian government is mulling the possibility for a nationwide referendum on the country's federalization to ease tensions in the east.
Pro-Russia activists have occupied several government buildings in eastern Ukraine, demanding closer ties to Moscow.
The United States has accused Russia of being behind the unrest and urged Russian leaders to defuse the tension by persuading armed groups to leave the buildings they seized.
However, Moscow denies involvement, saying it's not interested in interfering in Ukraine's domestic affairs.
Ukraine's interim leaders offering a referendum on federalization.
At a meeting of parliamentary leaders on Monday, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov suggested the vote be held at the same time as the May 25 presidential election.
He hoped that the overwhelming majority of citizens will support an "indivisible, independent and democratic" Ukraine.
A referendum on federalization and greater independence from Kiev is the key demand of pro-Russia protesters who took control of several government buildings in eastern Ukraine over the weekend.
Turchynov has accused Moscow of offering "public support" for terrorist offence, and ordered a "counter-terror operation" in restive areas.
SOUNDBITE (English) YURIY SERGEYEV, Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN:
"The Ukrainian authorities are dealing within the constitution and the law of counter-terrorism. We cannot stand away from this situation where thousands and thousands of people, citizens of a small, bigger village, are being threatened by a smaller group of the separatist, particularly those who are weaponed."
On Monday, the Ukrainian acting president also suggested the United Nations send peacekeepers to participate in the anti-terror drive.
Local media said at least four people died in a spate of violence between security forces and activists at the weekend. Two of them were civilians.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied Russia's involvement in events in eastern Ukraine.
"We are not meddling with Ukraine's domestic affairs. This would have run counter to our interests. No Russian agents are deployed there, neither from GRU or FSB."
Lavrov said those who encourage Ukrainian authorities to use force to suppress protests in the country's eastern regions should be held responsible for the consequences.
A day earlier, at the request of Russia, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Ukraine, during which the Russian ambassador rebuffed claims that Moscow was behind the violence in Ukraine, and said Kiev needs to stop the war with its own people.
SOUNDBITE (English) VITALY CHURKIN, Russian ambassador to the UN:
"We called for this urgent meeting of the Security Council out of our concern that things are getting out of control in South Eastern Ukraine and that the criminal aura which has been announced by acting president Turchynov to use military force in South Eastern Ukraine may signify another major step towards the escalation of the situation which is in a graphic contrast to the prior assurances received from our western interlocutors."
Churkin urged the European Union and the United States to "disassociate from the neo-Nazis" and stop the use of force against the Ukrainian people.
Meanwhile, in Brussels, the EU decided on Monday to expand sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, putting more people under asset freezes and visa bans.
The 28-member bloc also demanded Russia "call back its troops from the Ukrainian border".
On the same day, U.S. President Barack Obama held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
The White House said Obama expressed "grave concern" over Russia's support for the actions of pro-Russian armed groups.
He also urged Russia to convince the activists to evacuate the buildings they seized and for Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine's border in order to defuse tensions.
And in New York, the United Nations chief has also voiced his "deep concern" over the deteriorating situation in Ukraine.
And the assistant UN Secretary-General for Political Affairs also called for "maximum restraint" by all concerned parties.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH): STEPHAN DUJARRIC, Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General
"Council members received an update from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez Taranco. He said that following two weeks of relative calm, starting on April 6 armed individuals and separatists groups began to seize government buildings and confiscate lethal weapons in the Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine, including the cities of Donetsk, Lugansk and Khartsy'k. He said that the Secretary-General has continued to speak out for the exercise of maximum restraint by all concerned as well as strict adherence to international law. He also continues to urge all others with influence on the situation to immediately and publicly call for restraint and a return to calm."