World Bulletin/News Desk
Ukraine's interim president said on Monday that the Kiev leadership was "not against" a referendum being held on the type of state Ukraine should be and added he was sure it would confirm the wish of the majority for a united, independent country.
The holding of a referendum has been one of the demands of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Oleksander Turchinov, in televised remarks to a parliamentary committee, added that such a poll could be held at the same time as a presidential election on May 25.
He added that an anti-terrorist operation involving the army would begin in eastern Ukraine, unless rebels laid down their arms, and that the Donbass region "will soon be stabilised".
Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov said on Monday Ukraine's Russian-speaking eastern regions should be involved in drafting a new state structure that Kiev has said may be put to a referendum next month.Lavrov said it was not in Russia's interests for Ukraine to break up, but that Moscow wanted Kiev to give all citizens equal treatment.
He denied Ukrainian and U.S. allegations that Russia had undercover agents fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, and said he was seeking an explanation of media reports that the director of the CIA, John Brennan, had visited Kiev.
Pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine have said they want a new constitution which will create a federal system of government with greater autonomy for the regions.
"I do not yet know the details of the referendum that has been announced for May 25," Lavrov said. He was speaking at a news conference after meeting his Sudanese counterpart.
"Fashioning some kind of text with the Verkhovny Rada (Ukrainian parliament) without the participation of the regions and then putting it to a referendum: that does not respond to the criteria we speak about or that the south east (of Ukraine) has spoken about and we back their stance."
"Let every political actor and every region without exception voice its interests and based on that we will look for a common denominator and then we will get a constitution that really unites and guarantees the interest of the people."
Responding to accusations from Kiev and some Western powers that Russia is preparing a military intervention in eastern Ukraine, Lavrov said: "As for your hypothetical question about ... possible military intervention, I don't even want to speculate. We do not meddle in the affairs of Ukraine."
"We don't have any agents there, not from the GRU (military intelligence) or the FSB (domestic security service)," Lavrov said, adding that it is "not in Russia's interest to destabilise the situation in Ukraine".
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