‘Ukraine will not give up Crimea’

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iol pic wld_UKRAINE-CRISIS-RUSSIA_0308_11 REUTERS A pro-Russian self defence unit stands behind shields painted in the colours of the Crimean flag during a rally in Simferopol . Picture: Vasily Fedosenko

Kiev - Ukraine's acting foreign minister said on Saturday his country would not give up Crimea and would do all in its power to resolve the crisis over the Black Sea peninsula peacefully.

Andriy Deshchytsia also urged Russia to do more to ensure foreign observers can enter Crimea and made a new call for the creation of an international “contact group” to discuss the crisis over the region, now controlled by Russian forces.

“Crimea is and will be Ukrainian territory and we will not give up Crimea to anyone,” Deshchytsia told a news conference in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Referring to deaths this year during protests against Ukraine's now deposed leader, Viktor Yanukovich, he said: “We are putting all our efforts into solving this matter through diplomacy - we have already had too many victims.”

Reiterating Ukraine's readiness to negotiate with Russia, he said a contact group should be set up to help get negotiations going although this was “only a small step forward”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday Washington wanted a contact group established to outline moves to reduce tensions and allow for Russian troops to return to barracks in Crimea, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet has a base.

“We want to keep good relations with the Russian people because we understand that we will live together in the future,” Deshchytsia said. “I hope cold reason and belief in the future will prevail.”

He urged Russia to use its influence to ensure foreign monitors are able to enter Crimea. Military observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been invited to go to the southern Ukrainian region by the national government, but have had to turn back at roadblocks. - Reuters



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