MOSCOW/BRUSSELS, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday urged the Ukrainian authorities to start talks on the state system in Ukraine's southeastern regions, hours after the European Union (EU) threatened to impose tougher sanctions on Russia.
Putin's remarks aroused worries from the West over Russia's intentions of stressing state system in eastern Ukraine.
However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made a further clarification later that Putin was not stressing the status of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Rather, when Putin called on Kiev to start talks with the militia, he meant the Ukrainian authorities' inclusive dialogue on the crisis settlement, the Interfax news agency reported.
"Substantive, meaningful talks should be immediately launched on questions of society structure and state system in southeastern Ukraine to unconditionally guarantee the lawful interests of people who live there," Putin said on Russia's Channel One Television.
Stressing the need to immediately stop hostilities and start restoring infrastructure, Putin called for replenishing reserves and carrying out necessary repair operations in order to prepare for the cold winter.
The militia will react to the Ukrainian government's military actions in any way but are still waiting for promised talks, according to Putin.
The Western countries should think about "their own ideals" of democratic values when judging the situation in Ukraine, Putin said.
He expressed his worries that settlement of the Ukraine crisis will not become a reality any time soon, as participants in the coming Ukrainian parliamentary elections will take the crisis as a chance "to demonstrate how tough they are."
He added that settlement of the internal conflict can only be agreed upon by the Kiev authorities and the insurgents, with interests of people living in the southeastern Ukraine taken into account.
The time span of the crisis "to a considerable extent depends on the political will of the current Ukrainian leadership," Putin said.
Putin's remarks came hours after the EU decided to give Moscow one week to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, or they will impose tougher sanctions on Russia.
"The European Council says that it stands ready to take further significant steps in the light of the evolution of the situation on the ground and it requests the (European) Commission to urgently take preparatory work and present proposals for consideration within a week," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told a news conference after a special summit in Brussels.
Meanwhile, European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso noted at the same news conference that the EU will not consider military solutions to the Ukraine crisis.
"There can be no military solution to this crisis. It's time for everyone to get down to the business of peacemaking. It is not too late, but time is quickly running out."
The previous sanction on Russia by the EU includes a package of restrictive measures targeting Russia's finance, defense and energy sectors, and blacklisting of dozens of individuals close to Putin.
Instead of taking a tit-for-tat measures against the West, Russia said Thursday it has not prepared any additional sanctions on the West.
"We ... were not preparing any proposals on any additional measures," Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov told reporters.
Russia's Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said Russia did not rule out filing complaints to the World Trade Organization (WTO) if Western countries step up their sanctions.
"The situation is dynamic, it depends on the partners' behavior. If they show some de-escalation, then we will refrain from adopting the measures. If not, we will speed them up," Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying.
Russia has handed over a total of 63 Ukrainian soldiers who crossed the border into Russian last week in exchange for all the Russian paratroopers detained in Ukraine, a paratroop commander said Sunday, a gesture to ease tension.
"The negotiations were difficult. But common sense prevailed and everything ended well," said Major General Alexei Ragozin, deputy commander of the Russian Airborne Forces.
Ragozin said the Russian side had done everything for the soonest release of the servicemen.
"Today, an aircraft of military transport aviation has brought the Ukrainian soldiers to the Belgorod airport, and they were taken by buses to the Nekhoteevka checkpoint to be handed over to the Ukrainian side," he said.
Ukraine also returned a group of Russian soldiers it detained in the east of the country near the border with Russia, after keeping them for several days and sending them to a detention facility in Kiev.
Ragozin said Ukraine's behavior over the incident was unacceptable considering the fact that hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen who happened to cross the border into Russia were given all-round assistance and immediately handed over to the Ukrainian side.
MOSCOW, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Russia has handed over a total of 63 Ukrainian soldiers who crossed the border into Russian last week in exchange for all the Russian paratroopers detained in Ukraine, a paratroop commander said Sunday.
"The negotiations were difficult. But common sense prevailed and everything ended well," said Major General Alexei Ragozin, deputy commander of the Russian Airborne Forces. Full story
BRUSSELS, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- European Union (EU) leaders decided early Sunday to give Russia one week to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, otherwise the bloc will impose tougher sanctions on Moscow, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told a news conference after a special summit in Brussels.
"The European Council says that it stands ready to take further significant steps in the light of the evolution of the situation on the ground and it requests the (European) Commission to urgently take preparatory work and present proposals for consideration within a week," Van Rompuy said. Full Story