A round-table discussion aimed at implementing an OSCE peace place in the Ukrainian conflict is underway in Kyiv. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has said he sees the country on the brink of civil war.
Wednesday's round-table discussions feature national and regional Ukrainian government officials, lawmakers, former leaders and candidates for elections planned for May 25. The framework for the talks is a peace plan implemented by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Leaders of the separatist armed uprising in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have not been invited, with Kyiv claiming they had "blood on their hands" in the conflict.
"The more representative the round-table talks are, the better," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday. "However, it is obviously also clear that people are only welcome if they can credibly show that they are prepared to reach their goals without violence."
Among the mediators of the talks in Kyiv is former German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, who chairs the Munich Security Conference.
'Brink of civil war'
Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of involvement in the separatists' efforts to occupy buildings in the eastern part of the country. The interim government also considers a referendum held Sunday in Donetsk and Luhansk declaring independence from Ukraine to be illegitimate. Kyiv accuses Moscow of trying to interfere with the May 25 presidential elections. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sees the conditions in Ukraine as inadequate to hold elections.
"When Ukrainians kill Ukrainians, I believe this is as close to a civil war as you can get," Lavrov said in an interview with Bloomberg television on Wednesday. "In east and south of Ukraine there is a war, a real war, with heavy weaponry used. And if this is conducive to free and fair elections, then I don't recognize what free and fair is."
Part of the OSCE's peace plan includes the provision that the elections be allowed to proceed.
Steinmeier in Paris
Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid a visit to his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, in Paris on Wednesday, to participate in a Cabinet meeting.
Fabius said that a "national dialogue must start now" in Ukraine, while Steinmeier said the country's partners must have discussions "day by day" to find ways to "influence the conflicting sides inside and outside of Ukraine to make the elections on May 25 possible."
Steinmeier was in Ukraine on Tuesday helping coordinate Wednesday's round table.
mz/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa)