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Ukraine talks set for next week



(Vatican Radio) Envoys from the European Union, Russia, the United States and Ukraine say they will meet next week to discuss the worsening situation in Ukraine in what will be their first four-way gathering since the crisis erupted. The announcements came as Ukraine's interim government struggled to end pro-Moscow uprisings along the Russian border with mixed results.

While authorities were able to recapture one regional headquarters in the city of Kharkiv, they were could not retake an 11-story regional building in Donetsk, where protesters have dug in for their third day.

And on Wednesday, a standoff continued in a third city, Luhansk, where Ukraine's Security Service said separatists armed with explosives and other weapons were holding 60 people hostage inside the agency's local headquarters.

Those occupying the building issued a video statement saying they want a referendum on the region's status and warning that any attempt to storm the place would be met with armed force.

RUSSIANS "HIRED"

US Secretary John Kerry says those sparking the unrests are Russians hired by Russia.

"Everything that we've seen in the last 48 hours, from Russian provocateurs and agents operating in eastern Ukraine, tells us that they've been sent there determined to create chaos," Kerry said. "And that is absolutely unacceptable."

Moscow has denied the claims. However Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the situation could improve only if Kyiv "took into account the interests of Russian-speaking regions".

Amid the tensions, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will join U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, his Russian counterpart Lavrov and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia next week to discuss the tensions.

RUSSIAN TROOPS

Russia annexed Crimea in February and has as many as 40.000 troops massed along the border.

Kyiv and the West say Moscow is encouraging unrest in the mainly Russian-speaking east of the country as an excuse to possibly seize more territory. Russia has strongly denied those charges.

International fears are increasing that the crisis could lead Russia to cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine’s crippled economy. Officials say this could impact Europe, where several countries are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas.

Ukraine missed a deadline to pay the equivalent of some 2.2 billion dollars that it owns for natural gas already pumped. The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin would meet senior officials Wednesday to discuss economic ties with Ukraine, including energy.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report: RealAudioMP3




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