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Ukraine PM: Regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister went on a charm offensive Friday as he visited the country’s southeast, pledging to give regions more powers and to defend the rights of Russian speakers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with regional officials who once opposed his new government in Kiev, but not with protesters occupying government buildings in the cities of Donetsk or Luhansk. Still, he left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of the protesters or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization for Ukraine.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the government recaptured a building taken over by protesters earlier in the week. Kernes and other officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow votes on autonomy for their regions but not on secession.

Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia – but only after Russia took over the peninsula by force.

Russia has ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin warning European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going to them through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off energy shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its debts. Those debts are a source of contention between the two nations, with the Russian estimate rising from $1.7 billion earlier this month to over $35 billion on Thursday.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters he favors a peaceful solution to the standoff. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the Ukrainian government against using force against protesters, saying that such action would derail the talks on settling the crisis between the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine set for next week, as well as any other diplomatic efforts. It lashed out at the U.S. warning to slap more sanctions on Russia in case of an escalation of the conflict, saying that “an escalation is only and exclusively possible if Kiev dares to do so, relying on massive support of the U.S. and the EU.”

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to a vote on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether to join Russia.

Eastern Ukraine has a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear being repressed by the acting government in Kiev that took over when Yanukovych fled

Yatsenyuk sought to assuage these fears in a live TV interview.

“I will be the first to guarantee the right of every Ukrainian to speak any language they want,” he said, speaking in Russian. “I have never met any Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would say he wants protection because he is not allowed to speak Russian.”

Kiev and Western officials say Russia is whipping up tensions in eastern Ukraine to establish a pretext for sending in troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, denied any Russian involvement in the events in the east, saying Friday on Rossiya television that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine, saying that “we can’t have such a desire, it would contradict the fundamental interests of Russia.”

“We want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders,” Lavrov said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visiting Bulgaria on Friday, again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders. NATO estimates those troops to be up to 40,000 forces.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones.

Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

The U.S. and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Putin’s entourage over the Russian annexation of Crimea. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new set of sanctions targeting seven officials from Crimea and the Chernomorskneftegaz company, a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state gas company whose assets have been seized by the Crimean authorities.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: Regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister went on a charm offensive Friday as he visited the country’s southeast, pledging to give regions more powers and to defend the rights of Russian speakers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with regional officials who once opposed his new government in Kiev, but not with protesters occupying government buildings in the cities of Donetsk or Luhansk. Still, he left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of the protesters or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization for Ukraine.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the government recaptured a building taken over by protesters earlier in the week. Kernes and other officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow votes on autonomy for their regions but not on secession.

Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia – but only after Russia took over the peninsula by force.

Russia has ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin warning European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going to them through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off energy shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its debts. Those debts are a source of contention between the two nations, with the Russian estimate rising from $1.7 billion earlier this month to over $35 billion on Thursday.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters he favors a peaceful solution to the standoff. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the Ukrainian government against using force against protesters, saying that such action would derail the talks on settling the crisis between the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine set for next week, as well as any other diplomatic efforts. It lashed out at the U.S. warning to slap more sanctions on Russia in case of an escalation of the conflict, saying that “an escalation is only and exclusively possible if Kiev dares to do so, relying on massive support of the U.S. and the EU.”

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to a vote on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether to join Russia.

Eastern Ukraine has a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear being repressed by the acting government in Kiev that took over when Yanukovych fled

Yatsenyuk sought to assuage these fears in a live TV interview.

“I will be the first to guarantee the right of every Ukrainian to speak any language they want,” he said, speaking in Russian. “I have never met any Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would say he wants protection because he is not allowed to speak Russian.”

Kiev and Western officials say Russia is whipping up tensions in eastern Ukraine to establish a pretext for sending in troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, denied any Russian involvement in the events in the east, saying Friday on Rossiya television that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine, saying that “we can’t have such a desire, it would contradict the fundamental interests of Russia.”

“We want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders,” Lavrov said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visiting Bulgaria on Friday, again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders. NATO estimates those troops to be up to 40,000 forces.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones.

Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

The U.S. and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Putin’s entourage over the Russian annexation of Crimea. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new set of sanctions targeting seven officials from Crimea and the Chernomorskneftegaz company, a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state gas company whose assets have been seized by the Crimean authorities.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: Regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister went on a charm offensive Friday as he visited the country’s southeast, pledging to give regions more powers and to defend the rights of Russian speakers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with regional officials who once opposed his new government in Kiev, but not with protesters occupying government buildings in the cities of Donetsk or Luhansk. Still, he left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of the protesters or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization for Ukraine.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the government recaptured a building taken over by protesters earlier in the week. Kernes and other officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow votes on autonomy for their regions but not on secession.

Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia – but only after Russia took over the peninsula by force.

Russia has ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin warning European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going to them through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off energy shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its debts. Those debts are a source of contention between the two nations, with the Russian estimate rising from $1.7 billion earlier this month to over $35 billion on Thursday.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters he favors a peaceful solution to the standoff. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the Ukrainian government against using force against protesters, saying that such action would derail the talks on settling the crisis between the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine set for next week, as well as any other diplomatic efforts. It lashed out at the U.S. warning to slap more sanctions on Russia in case of an escalation of the conflict, saying that “an escalation is only and exclusively possible if Kiev dares to do so, relying on massive support of the U.S. and the EU.”

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to a vote on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether to join Russia.

Eastern Ukraine has a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear being repressed by the acting government in Kiev that took over when Yanukovych fled

Yatsenyuk sought to assuage these fears in a live TV interview.

“I will be the first to guarantee the right of every Ukrainian to speak any language they want,” he said, speaking in Russian. “I have never met any Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would say he wants protection because he is not allowed to speak Russian.”

Kiev and Western officials say Russia is whipping up tensions in eastern Ukraine to establish a pretext for sending in troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, denied any Russian involvement in the events in the east, saying Friday on Rossiya television that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine, saying that “we can’t have such a desire, it would contradict the fundamental interests of Russia.”

“We want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders,” Lavrov said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visiting Bulgaria on Friday, again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders. NATO estimates those troops to be up to 40,000 forces.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones.

Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

The U.S. and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Putin’s entourage over the Russian annexation of Crimea. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new set of sanctions targeting seven officials from Crimea and the Chernomorskneftegaz company, a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state gas company whose assets have been seized by the Crimean authorities.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: Regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister went on a charm offensive Friday as he visited the country’s southeast, pledging to give regions more powers and to defend the rights of Russian speakers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with regional officials who once opposed his new government in Kiev, but not with protesters occupying government buildings in the cities of Donetsk or Luhansk. Still, he left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of the protesters or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization for Ukraine.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the government recaptured a building taken over by protesters earlier in the week. Kernes and other officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow votes on autonomy for their regions but not on secession.

Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia – but only after Russia took over the peninsula by force.

Russia has ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin warning European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going to them through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off energy shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its debts. Those debts are a source of contention between the two nations, with the Russian estimate rising from $1.7 billion earlier this month to over $35 billion on Thursday.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters he favors a peaceful solution to the standoff. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the Ukrainian government against using force against protesters, saying that such action would derail the talks on settling the crisis between the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine set for next week, as well as any other diplomatic efforts. It lashed out at the U.S. warning to slap more sanctions on Russia in case of an escalation of the conflict, saying that “an escalation is only and exclusively possible if Kiev dares to do so, relying on massive support of the U.S. and the EU.”

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to a vote on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether to join Russia.

Eastern Ukraine has a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear being repressed by the acting government in Kiev that took over when Yanukovych fled

Yatsenyuk sought to assuage these fears in a live TV interview.

“I will be the first to guarantee the right of every Ukrainian to speak any language they want,” he said, speaking in Russian. “I have never met any Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would say he wants protection because he is not allowed to speak Russian.”

Kiev and Western officials say Russia is whipping up tensions in eastern Ukraine to establish a pretext for sending in troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, denied any Russian involvement in the events in the east, saying Friday on Rossiya television that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine, saying that “we can’t have such a desire, it would contradict the fundamental interests of Russia.”

“We want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders,” Lavrov said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visiting Bulgaria on Friday, again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders. NATO estimates those troops to be up to 40,000 forces.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones.

Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

The U.S. and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Putin’s entourage over the Russian annexation of Crimea. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new set of sanctions targeting seven officials from Crimea and the Chernomorskneftegaz company, a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state gas company whose assets have been seized by the Crimean authorities.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: Regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister went on a charm offensive Friday as he visited the country’s southeast, pledging to give regions more powers and to defend the rights of Russian speakers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with regional officials who once opposed his new government in Kiev, but not with protesters occupying government buildings in the cities of Donetsk or Luhansk. Still, he left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of the protesters or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization for Ukraine.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the government recaptured a building taken over by protesters earlier in the week. Kernes and other officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow votes on autonomy for their regions but not on secession.

Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia – but only after Russia took over the peninsula by force.

Russia has ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin warning European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going to them through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off energy shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its debts. Those debts are a source of contention between the two nations, with the Russian estimate rising from $1.7 billion earlier this month to over $35 billion on Thursday.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters he favors a peaceful solution to the standoff. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the Ukrainian government against using force against protesters, saying that such action would derail the talks on settling the crisis between the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine set for next week, as well as any other diplomatic efforts. It lashed out at the U.S. warning to slap more sanctions on Russia in case of an escalation of the conflict, saying that “an escalation is only and exclusively possible if Kiev dares to do so, relying on massive support of the U.S. and the EU.”

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to a vote on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether to join Russia.

Eastern Ukraine has a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear being repressed by the acting government in Kiev that took over when Yanukovych fled

Yatsenyuk sought to assuage these fears in a live TV interview.

“I will be the first to guarantee the right of every Ukrainian to speak any language they want,” he said, speaking in Russian. “I have never met any Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would say he wants protection because he is not allowed to speak Russian.”

Kiev and Western officials say Russia is whipping up tensions in eastern Ukraine to establish a pretext for sending in troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, denied any Russian involvement in the events in the east, saying Friday on Rossiya television that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine, saying that “we can’t have such a desire, it would contradict the fundamental interests of Russia.”

“We want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders,” Lavrov said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visiting Bulgaria on Friday, again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders. NATO estimates those troops to be up to 40,000 forces.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones.

Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

The U.S. and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Putin’s entourage over the Russian annexation of Crimea. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new set of sanctions targeting seven officials from Crimea and the Chernomorskneftegaz company, a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state gas company whose assets have been seized by the Crimean authorities.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: Regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister went on a charm offensive Friday as he visited the country’s southeast, pledging to give regions more powers and to defend the rights of Russian speakers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with regional officials who once opposed his new government in Kiev, but not with protesters occupying government buildings in the cities of Donetsk or Luhansk. Still, he left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of the protesters or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization for Ukraine.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the government recaptured a building taken over by protesters earlier in the week. Kernes and other officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow votes on autonomy for their regions but not on secession.

Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia – but only after Russia took over the peninsula by force.

Russia has ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin warning European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going to them through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off energy shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its debts. Those debts are a source of contention between the two nations, with the Russian estimate rising from $1.7 billion earlier this month to over $35 billion on Thursday.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters he favors a peaceful solution to the standoff. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the Ukrainian government against using force against protesters, saying that such action would derail the talks on settling the crisis between the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine set for next week, as well as any other diplomatic efforts. It lashed out at the U.S. warning to slap more sanctions on Russia in case of an escalation of the conflict, saying that “an escalation is only and exclusively possible if Kiev dares to do so, relying on massive support of the U.S. and the EU.”

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to a vote on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether to join Russia.

Eastern Ukraine has a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear being repressed by the acting government in Kiev that took over when Yanukovych fled

Yatsenyuk sought to assuage these fears in a live TV interview.

“I will be the first to guarantee the right of every Ukrainian to speak any language they want,” he said, speaking in Russian. “I have never met any Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would say he wants protection because he is not allowed to speak Russian.”

Kiev and Western officials say Russia is whipping up tensions in eastern Ukraine to establish a pretext for sending in troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, denied any Russian involvement in the events in the east, saying Friday on Rossiya television that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine, saying that “we can’t have such a desire, it would contradict the fundamental interests of Russia.”

“We want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders,” Lavrov said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visiting Bulgaria on Friday, again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders. NATO estimates those troops to be up to 40,000 forces.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones.

Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

The U.S. and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Putin’s entourage over the Russian annexation of Crimea. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new set of sanctions targeting seven officials from Crimea and the Chernomorskneftegaz company, a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state gas company whose assets have been seized by the Crimean authorities.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: Regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister went on a charm offensive Friday as he visited the country’s southeast, pledging to give regions more powers and to defend the rights of Russian speakers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with regional officials who once opposed his new government in Kiev, but not with protesters occupying government buildings in the cities of Donetsk or Luhansk. Still, he left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of the protesters or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization for Ukraine.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the government recaptured a building taken over by protesters earlier in the week. Kernes and other officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow votes on autonomy for their regions but not on secession.

Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia – but only after Russia took over the peninsula by force.

Russia has ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin warning European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going to them through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off energy shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its debts. Those debts are a source of contention between the two nations, with the Russian estimate rising from $1.7 billion earlier this month to over $35 billion on Thursday.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters he favors a peaceful solution to the standoff. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the Ukrainian government against using force against protesters, saying that such action would derail the talks on settling the crisis between the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine set for next week, as well as any other diplomatic efforts. It lashed out at the U.S. warning to slap more sanctions on Russia in case of an escalation of the conflict, saying that “an escalation is only and exclusively possible if Kiev dares to do so, relying on massive support of the U.S. and the EU.”

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to a vote on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether to join Russia.

Eastern Ukraine has a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear being repressed by the acting government in Kiev that took over when Yanukovych fled

Yatsenyuk sought to assuage these fears in a live TV interview.

“I will be the first to guarantee the right of every Ukrainian to speak any language they want,” he said, speaking in Russian. “I have never met any Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would say he wants protection because he is not allowed to speak Russian.”

Kiev and Western officials say Russia is whipping up tensions in eastern Ukraine to establish a pretext for sending in troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, denied any Russian involvement in the events in the east, saying Friday on Rossiya television that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine, saying that “we can’t have such a desire, it would contradict the fundamental interests of Russia.”

“We want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders,” Lavrov said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visiting Bulgaria on Friday, again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders. NATO estimates those troops to be up to 40,000 forces.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones.

Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

The U.S. and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Putin’s entourage over the Russian annexation of Crimea. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new set of sanctions targeting seven officials from Crimea and the Chernomorskneftegaz company, a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state gas company whose assets have been seized by the Crimean authorities.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: Regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister went on a charm offensive Friday as he visited the country’s southeast, pledging to give regions more powers and to defend the rights of Russian speakers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with regional officials who once opposed his new government in Kiev, but not with protesters occupying government buildings in the cities of Donetsk or Luhansk. Still, he left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of the protesters or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization for Ukraine.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the government recaptured a building taken over by protesters earlier in the week. Kernes and other officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow votes on autonomy for their regions but not on secession.

Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia – but only after Russia took over the peninsula by force.

Russia has ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin warning European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going to them through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off energy shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its debts. Those debts are a source of contention between the two nations, with the Russian estimate rising from $1.7 billion earlier this month to over $35 billion on Thursday.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters he favors a peaceful solution to the standoff. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the Ukrainian government against using force against protesters, saying that such action would derail the talks on settling the crisis between the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine set for next week, as well as any other diplomatic efforts. It lashed out at the U.S. warning to slap more sanctions on Russia in case of an escalation of the conflict, saying that “an escalation is only and exclusively possible if Kiev dares to do so, relying on massive support of the U.S. and the EU.”

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to a vote on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether to join Russia.

Eastern Ukraine has a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear being repressed by the acting government in Kiev that took over when Yanukovych fled

Yatsenyuk sought to assuage these fears in a live TV interview.

“I will be the first to guarantee the right of every Ukrainian to speak any language they want,” he said, speaking in Russian. “I have never met any Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would say he wants protection because he is not allowed to speak Russian.”

Kiev and Western officials say Russia is whipping up tensions in eastern Ukraine to establish a pretext for sending in troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, denied any Russian involvement in the events in the east, saying Friday on Rossiya television that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine, saying that “we can’t have such a desire, it would contradict the fundamental interests of Russia.”

“We want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders,” Lavrov said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visiting Bulgaria on Friday, again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders. NATO estimates those troops to be up to 40,000 forces.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones.

Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

The U.S. and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Putin’s entourage over the Russian annexation of Crimea. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new set of sanctions targeting seven officials from Crimea and the Chernomorskneftegaz company, a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state gas company whose assets have been seized by the Crimean authorities.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: Regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister went on a charm offensive Friday as he visited the country’s southeast, pledging to give regions more powers and to defend the rights of Russian speakers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with regional officials who once opposed his new government in Kiev, but not with protesters occupying government buildings in the cities of Donetsk or Luhansk. Still, he left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of the protesters or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization for Ukraine.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the government recaptured a building taken over by protesters earlier in the week. Kernes and other officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow votes on autonomy for their regions but not on secession.

Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia – but only after Russia took over the peninsula by force.

Russia has ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin warning European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going to them through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off energy shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its debts. Those debts are a source of contention between the two nations, with the Russian estimate rising from $1.7 billion earlier this month to over $35 billion on Thursday.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters he favors a peaceful solution to the standoff. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men.

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to a vote on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether to join Russia.

Eastern Ukraine has a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear being repressed by the acting government in Kiev that took over when Yanukovych fled

Yatsenyuk sought to assuage these fears in a live TV interview.

“I will be the first to guarantee the right of every Ukrainian to speak any language they want,” he said, speaking in Russian. “I have never met any Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would say he wants protection because he is not allowed to speak Russian.”

Kiev and Western officials say Russia is whipping up tensions in eastern Ukraine to establish a pretext for sending in troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, denied any participation by Russia in the events in the east, saying Friday on Rossiya television that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He also said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine and dismissed earlier calls by the protesters for Russia to send in peacekeeping forces.

“We want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders,” Lavrov said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visiting Bulgaria on Friday, again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders. NATO estimates those troops to be up to 40,000 forces.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones.

Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister on Friday told leaders in the country’s restive east that he is committed to allowing regions to have more powers, but left it unclear how his ideas differ from the demands of protesters now occupying government buildings or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization.

The officials who met Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Donetsk did not include representatives of the protesters. The officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow referenda on autonomy for their regions, but not on secession.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where protesters had occupied a government building earlier in the week.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia.

Russia ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine on Thursday when President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its mammoth debts.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies on Friday that Russia has not heard from the countries to which Putin sent a letter.

Protesters in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk are occupying government buildings and calling for referenda on regional autonomy that could prefigure seeking annexation by Russia.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters that he favors a peaceful solution to the stand-off. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men, though a two-day deadline announced earlier this week has passed.

Yatsenyuk said the grievances of eastern Ukraine would be appeased by the upcoming constitutional reform that will “satisfy people who want to see more powers given to regions.” He mentioned abolishing Kiev-controlled local administration as one of the steps to decentralize the country.

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to one on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether the region would remain part of Ukraine or seek to become an autonomous region within Russia.

The eastern parts of Ukraine have a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear that the acting government that took over when Yanukovych fled will repress them. Kiev and Western officials, in turn, claim that Russia is whipping up tensions in the east, with the aim of establishing a pretext for sending in troops. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied any participation by Russia in the events in the east, saying on Rossiya television on Friday that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He also said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine and “we want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders.” He also dismissed earlier calls by the eastern Ukraine protesters for Russia to send in peacekeeping forces.

Russia is calling on Ukraine to change its constitution to become a federalized state in which regions would have more control of their own affairs. Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who was visiting Bulgaria on Friday again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders, and added that NATO is taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability created by Russia’s “illegitimate” actions.

Speaking in Prague, Czech President Milos Zeman called on NATO and the European Union to take robust pre-emptive actions to deter Russia from invading other parts of Ukraine after its takeover of Crimea. He stopped short of giving details.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones. Romania, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

In a bid to apply pressure on Russia, the European Union has warned Moscow of further sanctions for ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine.

A senior European Union official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the 28-nation bloc’s foreign ministers would consider broadening the list of people sanctioned to deter Russia from further destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.

The person, who was briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said ministers at Monday’s meeting in Luxembourg aren’t expected to decide new sanctions but could agree on ordering the preparation of a new list of targets.

Russia’s Lavrov on Friday blamed the crisis on the West and its support for Ukraine’s fledging government which he described as illegitimate. Lavrov said the solution to the crisis would be a “deep” constitutional reform in Ukraine that would guarantee Ukraine’s “nonaligned status,” meaning a guarantee that it would not join NATO.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister on Friday told leaders in the country’s restive east that he is committed to allowing regions to have more powers, but left it unclear how his ideas differ from the demands of protesters now occupying government buildings or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization.

The officials who met Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Donetsk did not include representatives of the protesters. The officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow referenda on autonomy for their regions, but not on secession.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where protesters had occupied a government building earlier in the week.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia.

Russia ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine on Thursday when President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its mammoth debts.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies on Friday that Russia has not heard from the countries to which Putin sent a letter.

Protesters in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk are occupying government buildings and calling for referenda on regional autonomy that could prefigure seeking annexation by Russia.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters that he favors a peaceful solution to the stand-off. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men, though a two-day deadline announced earlier this week has passed.

Yatsenyuk said the grievances of eastern Ukraine would be appeased by the upcoming constitutional reform that will “satisfy people who want to see more powers given to regions.” He mentioned abolishing Kiev-controlled local administration as one of the steps to decentralize the country.

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to one on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether the region would remain part of Ukraine or seek to become an autonomous region within Russia.

The eastern parts of Ukraine have a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear that the acting government that took over when Yanukovych fled will repress them. Kiev and Western officials, in turn, claim that Russia is whipping up tensions in the east, with the aim of establishing a pretext for sending in troops. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied any participation by Russia in the events in the east, saying on Rossiya television on Friday that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He also said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine and “we want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders.” He also dismissed earlier calls by the eastern Ukraine protesters for Russia to send in peacekeeping forces.

Russia is calling on Ukraine to change its constitution to become a federalized state in which regions would have more control of their own affairs. Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who was visiting Bulgaria on Friday again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders, and added that NATO is taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability created by Russia’s “illegitimate” actions.

Speaking in Prague, Czech President Milos Zeman called on NATO and the European Union to take robust pre-emptive actions to deter Russia from invading other parts of Ukraine after its takeover of Crimea. He stopped short of giving details.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones. Romania, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

In a bid to apply pressure on Russia, the European Union has warned Moscow of further sanctions for ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine.

A senior European Union official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the 28-nation bloc’s foreign ministers would consider broadening the list of people sanctioned to deter Russia from further destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.

The person, who was briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said ministers at Monday’s meeting in Luxembourg aren’t expected to decide new sanctions but could agree on ordering the preparation of a new list of targets.

Russia’s Lavrov on Friday blamed the crisis on the West and its support for Ukraine’s fledging government which he described as illegitimate. Lavrov said the solution to the crisis would be a “deep” constitutional reform in Ukraine that would guarantee Ukraine’s “nonaligned status,” meaning a guarantee that it would not join NATO.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister on Friday told leaders in the country’s restive east that he is committed to allowing regions to have more powers, but left it unclear how his ideas differ from the demands of protesters now occupying government buildings or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization.

The officials who met Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Donetsk did not include representatives of the protesters. The officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow referenda on autonomy for their regions, but not on secession.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where protesters had occupied a government building earlier in the week.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia.

Russia ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine on Thursday when President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its mammoth debts.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies on Friday that Russia has not heard from the countries to which Putin sent a letter.

Protesters in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk are occupying government buildings and calling for referenda on regional autonomy that could prefigure seeking annexation by Russia.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters that he favors a peaceful solution to the stand-off. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men, though a two-day deadline announced earlier this week has passed.

Yatsenyuk said the grievances of eastern Ukraine would be appeased by the upcoming constitutional reform that will “satisfy people who want to see more powers given to regions.” He mentioned abolishing Kiev-controlled local administration as one of the steps to decentralize the country.

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to one on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether the region would remain part of Ukraine or seek to become an autonomous region within Russia.

The eastern parts of Ukraine have a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear that the acting government that took over when Yanukovych fled will repress them. Kiev and Western officials, in turn, claim that Russia is whipping up tensions in the east, with the aim of establishing a pretext for sending in troops. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied any participation by Russia in the events in the east, saying on Rossiya television on Friday that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He also said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine and “we want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders.” He also dismissed earlier calls by the eastern Ukraine protesters for Russia to send in peacekeeping forces.

Russia is calling on Ukraine to change its constitution to become a federalized state in which regions would have more control of their own affairs. Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who was visiting Bulgaria on Friday again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders, and added that NATO is taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability created by Russia’s “illegitimate” actions.

Speaking in Prague, Czech President Milos Zeman called on NATO and the European Union to take robust pre-emptive actions to deter Russia from invading other parts of Ukraine after its takeover of Crimea. He stopped short of giving details.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones. Romania, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

In a bid to apply pressure on Russia, the European Union has warned Moscow of further sanctions for ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine.

A senior European Union official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the 28-nation bloc’s foreign ministers would consider broadening the list of people sanctioned to deter Russia from further destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.

The person, who was briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said ministers at Monday’s meeting in Luxembourg aren’t expected to decide new sanctions but could agree on ordering the preparation of a new list of targets.

Russia’s Lavrov on Friday blamed the crisis on the West and its support for Ukraine’s fledging government which he described as illegitimate. Lavrov said the solution to the crisis would be a “deep” constitutional reform in Ukraine that would guarantee Ukraine’s “nonaligned status,” meaning a guarantee that it would not join NATO.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister on Friday told leaders in the country’s restive east that he is committed to allowing regions to have more powers, but left it unclear how his ideas differ from the demands of protesters now occupying government buildings or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization.

The officials who met Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Donetsk did not include representatives of the protesters. The officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow referenda on autonomy for their regions, but not on secession.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where protesters had occupied a government building earlier in the week.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia.

Russia ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine on Thursday when President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its mammoth debts.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies on Friday that Russia has not heard from the countries to which Putin sent a letter.

Protesters in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk are occupying government buildings and calling for referenda on regional autonomy that could prefigure seeking annexation by Russia.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city, Yatsenyuk told reporters that he favors a peaceful solution to the stand-off. However, he left the door open to storming the buildings occupied by armed men, though a two-day deadline announced earlier this week has passed.

Yatsenyuk said the grievances of eastern Ukraine would be appeased by the upcoming constitutional reform that will “satisfy people who want to see more powers given to regions.” He mentioned abolishing Kiev-controlled local administration as one of the steps to decentralize the country.

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to one on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether the region would remain part of Ukraine or seek to become an autonomous region within Russia.

The eastern parts of Ukraine have a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear that the acting government that took over when Yanukovych fled will repress them. Kiev and Western officials, in turn, claim that Russia is whipping up tensions in the east, with the aim of establishing a pretext for sending in troops. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied any participation by Russia in the events in the east, saying on Rossiya television on Friday that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

He also said Russia does not aim to annex any parts of eastern Ukraine and “we want Ukraine to be whole with its current borders.” He also dismissed earlier calls by the eastern Ukraine protesters for Russia to send in peacekeeping forces.

Russia is calling on Ukraine to change its constitution to become a federalized state in which regions would have more control of their own affairs. Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who was visiting Bulgaria on Friday again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders, and added that NATO is taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability created by Russia’s “illegitimate” actions.

Speaking in Prague, Czech President Milos Zeman called on NATO and the European Union to take robust pre-emptive actions to deter Russia from invading other parts of Ukraine after its takeover of Crimea. He stopped short of giving details.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones. Romania, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

In a bid to apply pressure on Russia, the European Union has warned Moscow of further sanctions for ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine.

A senior European Union official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the 28-nation bloc’s foreign ministers would consider broadening the list of people sanctioned to deter Russia from further destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.

The person, who was briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said ministers at Monday’s meeting in Luxembourg aren’t expected to decide new sanctions but could agree on ordering the preparation of a new list of targets.

Russia’s Lavrov on Friday blamed the crisis on the West and its support for Ukraine’s fledging government which he described as illegitimate. Lavrov said the solution to the crisis would be a “deep” constitutional reform in Ukraine that would guarantee Ukraine’s “nonaligned status,” meaning a guarantee that it would not join NATO.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister on Friday told leaders in the country’s restive east that he is committed to allowing regions to have more powers, but left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of protesters now occupying government buildings or Russia’s advocacy of federalization.

The officials whom Arseniy Yatsenyuk met in Donetsk did not include representatives of the protesters. The officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow referenda on autonomy for their regions, not on secession.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of the Kharkiv region where protesters had occupied a government building earlier in the week.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia.

Russia ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine on Thursday when President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders of a risk to the gas supplies going through Ukraine. He has threatened that Russia could shut off shipments to Ukraine if it fails to pay its mammoth debts.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies on Friday that Russia has not heard from the countries to which Putin sent the letter.

Protesters in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk are occupying government buildings and calling for referenda on regional autonomy that could prefigure seeking annexation by Russia.

Before leaving Donetsk for another eastern city Yatsenyuk told reporters that he favors a peaceful solution to the stand-off. However, he left the door open for storming the buildings occupied by armed men, though a two-day deadline announced earlier this week has passed.

Yatsenyuk said grievances of eastern Ukraine would be appeased by the upcoming constitutional reform that will “satisfy people who want to see more powers given to regions.” He mentioned abolishing Kiev-controlled local administration as one of the steps to decentralize the country.

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to one on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether the region would remain part of Ukraine or seek to become an autonomous region within Russia.

The eastern parts of Ukraine have a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear that the acting government that took over when Yanukovych fled will repress them. Kiev and Western officials in turn claim that Russia is whipping up tensions in the east, with the aim of establishing a pretext for sending in troops. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied any participation by Russia in the events in the east, saying on the Rossiya television on Friday that “our servicemen aren’t there. Our agents aren’t there.”

Russia is calling on Ukraine to change its constitution to become a federalized state in which regions would have more control of their own affairs. Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who was visiting Bulgaria on Friday again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders, and added that NATO is taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability created by Russia’s “illegitimate” actions.

Speaking in Prague, Czech President Milos Zeman called on NATO and the European Union to take robust pre-emptive actions to deter Russia from invading other parts of Ukraine after its takeover of Crimea. He stopped short of giving details.

In northwest Romania, some 450 U.S. and Romanian troops were conducting joint military exercises, flying U.S. F-16 fighter jets alongside Romanian ones. Romania, Russia and Ukraine all border the Black Sea.

In a bid to apply pressure on Russia, the European Union has warned Moscow of further sanctions for ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine.

A senior European Union official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the 28-nation bloc’s foreign ministers would consider broadening the list of people sanctioned to deter Russia from further destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.

The person, who was briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said ministers at Monday’s meeting in Luxembourg aren’t expected to decide new sanctions but could agree on ordering the preparation of a new list of targets.

Russia’s Lavrov on Friday blamed the crisis on the West and its support for Ukraine’s fledging government which he described as illegitimate. Lavrov said the solution to the crisis would be a “deep” constitutional reform in Ukraine that would guarantee Ukraine’s “nonaligned status,” meaning a guarantee that it would not join NATO.

Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.

Ukraine PM: regions should have more powers

KDWN

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister on Friday told leaders in the country’s restive east that he is committed to allowing regions to have more powers, but left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of protesters now occupying government buildings or Russia’s advocacy of federalization.

The officials whom Arseniy Yatsenyuk met in Donetsk did not include representatives of the protesters. The officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow referenda on autonomy for their regions, not on secession.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of the Kharkiv region where protesters had occupied a government building earlier in the week.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia.

Protesters in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk are occupying government buildings and calling for referenda on regional autonomy that could prefigure seeking annexation by Russia.

The protesters in Donetsk, who have held the regional administration building since Sunday, initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to one on autonomy, with the possibility of holding another later on whether the region would remain part of Ukraine or seek to become an autonomous region within Russia.

The eastern parts of Ukraine have a high proportion of Russian-speakers and many of them fear that the acting government that took over when Yanukovych fled will repress them. Kiev and Western officials in turn claim that Russia is whipping up tensions in the east, with the aim of establishing a pretext for sending in troops.

Russia is calling on Ukraine to change its constitution to become a federalized state in which regions would have more control of their own affairs. Ukraine’s government has resisted federalization, saying that would lay the groundwork for the country’s breakup.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday again urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders, and added that NATO is taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability created by Russia’s “illegitimate” actions.

Speaking in Prague, Czech President Milos Zeman called on NATO and the European Union to take robust pre-emptive actions to deter Russia from invading other parts of Ukraine after its takeover of Crimea. He stopped short of giving details.

In a bid to apply pressure on Russia, the European Union has warned Moscow of further sanctions for ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine.

A senior European Union official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the 28-nation bloc’s foreign ministers would consider broadening the list of people sanctioned to deter Russia from further destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.

The person, who was briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said ministers at Monday’s meeting in Luxembourg aren’t expected to decide new sanctions but could agree on ordering the preparation of a new list of targets.

Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Jim Heintz in Moscow, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Karel Janicek, in Prague, Czech Republic, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this story.