Ukraine urges talks as stand-off turns bloody

Ukraine urges talks as stand-off turns bloody
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

UNITED NATIONS - Ukraine's premier went before the United Nations on Thursday to urge Russia to negotiate an end to the stand-off between their countries, as street battles in his homeland turned bloody.

At least one pro-Kiev protester was stabbed and killed in the eastern city of Donetsk when a demonstration in favour of Ukrainian unity was attacked by a Russian separatist crowd.

News of the death broke as Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk addressed an emergency session of the UN Security Council on the crisis opposing his interim government and the Kremlin.

Yatsenyuk said a negotiated solution was still possible, if Russia agrees to withdraw its forces from the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and begin a serious diplomatic dialogue.

"We want to have talks. We don't want to have any kind of military aggression," he insisted, turning to directly address Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin.

Churkin ridiculed the idea that there had been an "idyllic situation" before the crisis, but said: "Russia does not want war and nor do the Russians, and I'm convinced that Ukrainians don't want this either." Ukraine and Russia have been locked in an escalating stand-off since February 22, when a street revolt overthrew Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin refuses to recognise Yatsenyuk's new pro-Western administration, and tensions are building between rival camps inside Ukraine.

The crisis could come to a head on Sunday when Crimea - now occupied by pro-Moscow forces - is due to hold a referendum on becoming part of Russia.

Yatsenyuk has a strong diplomatic hand.

His government has been recognised by European powers, he won the full backing of US President Barack Obama in Washington on Wednesday and he is negotiating an IMF bailout.

Protests turn bloody 

But the facts on the ground favour Putin.

Russia's military is far larger than Ukraine's, and Russian troops have already seized control on the Crimean Peninsula, home to a mainly ethnic Russian population and Russia's Black Sea fleet.

Moscow makes no secret of its plan to annex Crimea after Sunday's referendum, which Kiev and Washington have declared illegitimate - promising the worst East-West split since the Cold War.

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