AFP reports: Russia said Monday it was ready to talk to Ukraine’s new president Petro Poroshenko, raising hopes that after months of tensions Moscow sees in the billionaire a leader it can work with.
“We are ready for dialogue with Kiev’s representatives, with Petro Poroshenko,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Russia’s first reaction to his victory in Sunday’s vote.
Lavrov was cautious, saying Moscow was ready for “pragmatic dialogue, on an equal footing” and warned that for Kiev to continue its military operations against pro-Russia rebels in the east would be a “colossal mistake”.
But Poroshenko — a billionaire with strong Russian business interests and a history of working with both pro-Western and Moscow-backed Ukrainian governments — is the kind of figure analysts say the Kremlin can see as a partner.
“Poroshenko is an extremely attractive president for the Kremlin… This is a person who will be able to negotiate with Moscow and find compromise,” said Alexander Konovalov, president of the Institute of Strategic Assessments.
“There was a camp in the Kremlin that wanted to feed the fire in Ukraine. Now I think they will move into the shadows,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet reacted himself to Poroshenko’s victory, but he did say he will “respect” the result of the vote and promised to work with Kiev’s new authorities. [Continue reading…]
Meanwhile, Reuters reports: Ukrainian government warplanes carried out airstrikes against pro-Russian rebels who seized Donetsk international airport on Monday, triggering a battle in and around the complex in a show of force by both sides after the election of a new president.
Reuters journalists saw black smoke billowing from the area of the airport after repeated explosions and gunfire, while jets roared overhead. A security official also said paratroops had landed in one of the fiercest clashes since violence broke out in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine some two months ago.
Loud thuds sounded from the area but after four to five hours Ukrainian soldiers appeared to have pushed back at least some of the separatists towards the town, though it was not clear if the army had recovered control of the airport.
There was no full account from either side of casualties. But the press service of the regional administration said one man had been killed and two injured from shrapnel of a shell which struck a part of the railway station serving the airport.
Saying that a deadline had passed at 1 p.m. (1000 GMT) for separatist militants to lay down their arms, a spokesman for the Ukrainian joint forces’ security operation in the region said two Sukhoi Su-25 jets had carried out strafing runs, firing warning shots around Sergei Prokofiev International Airport. [Continue reading…]