Ukraine hits back at proposals by Russia's Lavrov

KIEV Mon Mar 31, 2014 3:55am EDT

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KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine has hit back strongly at Russian calls for it to federalize its state structure and make Russian an official state language, saying its proposals were aimed at the break-up of Ukraine.

In an unusually harsh statement issued late on Sunday in reaction to comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said he was making demands on Ukraine which Russia would never allow itself at home.

"Why does Russia not introduce federalism ... Why does it not give more powers to national regions of the (Russian) Federation .. Why does it not introduce state languages, other than Russian, including Ukrainian, which is spoken by millions of Russians?", it asked.

"There's no need to preach to others. It's better to put things in order in your own house," it said.

The statement, reacting to comments by Lavrov in a Russian television interview at the weekend, objected to what it described as a "didactic tone of ultimatum" taken by the Russian foreign minister.

This showed, it said, that Russia as "a real aggressor" was not seeking any settlement of the crisis following its takeover of Crimea, which voted in a referendum on March 16 to become part of the Russian Federation.

"Under the barrels of their machine-guns, this aggressor seeks only one thing - the total capitulation of Ukraine, its break-up and the destruction of the Ukrainian state," it said.

Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in Paris on Sunday about ways to defuse the crisis over Ukraine, with Kerry telling Moscow that progress depended on a Russian troop pullback from Ukraine's borders.

The Russian annexation of Crimea, following the ouster of Ukraine's pro-Russia president in February, has caused the worst East-West confrontation since the Cold War ended two decades ago.

(This story was refiled to add Ukraine foreign ministry as source of statement)

(Writing By Richard Balmforth, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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