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Crimea escalation calls for direct talks

Feb 28, 2014
From wire reports, VILNIUS

The UN Security Council's current president, Lithuania, on Feb. 27 urged Russia to start direct talks with Ukraine on the crisis in Crimea to avert a regional conflict, reports AFP.

"As the representative of the United Nations Security Council presidency, I urge Russia to speak directly to Ukraine and to work together to stop the ongoing provocations" in Crimea, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP after talks in Kiev with Ukraine's new prime minister and interim president.

Dozens of pro-Russian gunmen seized government buildings in the volatile peninsula that hosts Russia's Black Sea naval fleet on Thursday, sparking concern among Western powers.

Linkevicius also urged Russia "to play a responsible and crucial role." If Moscow "does not stop the ongoing provocation, the situation may escalate and lead to a regional conflict no one wants," he added.

The first republic to break free from the Soviet Union in 1990, Lithuania played a key role in efforts to seal an EU association pact with Ukraine during its stint as EU president last year.

Deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich rejected the agreement at the summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius in November in favor of an aid deal with Russia, sparking the civil unrest that led to his ouster last weekend.

Linkevicius told AFP he thought the EU-Ukraine deal could be signed before a presidential election in May.

Lithuania in January started a two-year term on the UN Security Council, and took over its rotating presidency for February.

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