Russia told the West on Wednesday that four-way talks between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the United States and European Union must focus on fostering dialogue among Ukrainians and not on bilateral relations among the participants.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov delivered the message in a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the Foreign Ministry said. It said Lavrov and Kerry urged all sides to refrain from violence in eastern and southern Ukraine.
The European Union said on Tuesday that top diplomats from the EU, Russia, Ukraine and the United States would meet next week to discuss the crisis, but Russia says it wants to know more about the agenda for such talks.
In the meantime, Russian President Vladimir Putin told state-controlled natural gas producer Gazprom on Wednesday to hold off on making Ukraine pay up front for gas from Russia while seeking new consultations with the European Union.
“Taking into account the complex situation in Ukraine and the fact that we have not yet finished talks with the EU, I would ask Gazprom and the government to hold off on such a possibility,” the president said.
In Eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists reinforced barricades and prepared petrol bombs on Wednesday at a security services building they have seized in Luhansk after the government in Kiev warned it could use force to restore order.
The building is one of several in the east of the country seized by protesters demanding regional referendums on independence from Kiev, similar to the one that led to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region last month.