Minsk may host talks on Ukraine crisis

Ukrainian official confirms that trilateral talks may take place in Minsk.

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on Tuesday agreed to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko`s request that Minsk host talks on resolving the ongoing Ukraine crisis, according to the Belarusian leader`s press office.

The matter was discussed in a telephone conversation between Messrs. Lukashenka and Poroshenko. It was the Ukrainian president who made the call, said the press office.

The Ukrainian Presidential Administration said that Mr. Poroshenko had asked Belarus to host a meeting between Russian, Ukrainian and European negotiators on July 31. The meeting is to be attended by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, as well as Mikhail Zurabov, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, and a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The talks are reportedly expected to focus on the release of all hostages by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine`s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces and access by international experts to the site of the crash of the Malaysian Airlines` Boeing that was shot down by a missile in the Donetsk province earlier this month.

Mr. Lukashenka stressed in May that he was ready to offer any kind of help to Ukraine but would not agree to act as an intermediary between Kyiv and Moscow.

Ukrainian official confirms that trilateral talks may take place in Minsk

A deputy head of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration confirmed on Wednesday that a round of trilateral talks on resolving the ongoing Ukraine crisis may take place in Minsk on July 31.

The negotiations are to be attended by representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"It will be held in any case," Russia's Itar Tass quoted Valeriy Chaly as saying. "But if it takes place in Minsk such assistance will be very useful to us. In this case this is a very partner-like step on the part of the Belarusian leadership."

The official said that the meeting would not be "talks with terrorists."

He confirmed that the meeting would focus on the release of all hostages by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk provinces and access by international experts to the site of the crash of the Malaysian Airlines' Boeing that was shot down by a missile in the Donetsk province earlier this month.

Moscow welcomes proposal for talks on Ukraine crisis in Minsk

Moscow welcomes a proposal to hold a round of international talks on resolving the ongoing Ukraine crisis in Minsk, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe on Wednesday.

"We have constantly advocated talks, we welcome any opportunity for them, and in this context we appreciate Belarus` proposal," news agencies quoted him as saying.

"We will welcome contacts and thank our Belarusian colleagues for helping Ukrainians come to the negotiating table," said the Russian foreign minister.

"However one can treat what our Western partners undertake with regard to Belarus, and they tried to impose sanctions on the country and bar it from the Council of Europe, but when the moment of truth came Minsk proved acceptable to all as a venue of talks between Ukrainian parties," said Mr. Lavrov. "This is evidence of Belarus’ reputation in the international arena and that an honest policy is recognized even by those who dislike one state or another or its leader."

Opposition politician criticizes Poroshenko's choice of Minsk as venue of international talks on Ukraine crisis

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's decision to ask Minsk to host international talks on resolving the ongoing Ukraine crisis is a "big mistake," said Vintsuk Vyachorka, a leader of an opposition group called Belaruski Rukh (Belarusian Movement).

In an interview with popular opposition website charter97.org, the former chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front said that the proposal was the result of Minsk's campaign to portray its stance on the Ukraine crisis as independent of Moscow's influence.

"But it is specific steps that count. And specific steps are voting by Lukashenka's representative in the UN General Assembly to the dictation of Vitaly Churkin, the deployment of Russian warplanes at Belarusian airfields and discriminatory measures targeting Ukrainian goods," said Mr. Vyachorka.

"It's a shame that Kyiv does not want to notice that, cherishing some illusions. I think that Brussels also cherishes illusions that Lukashenka could be turned into some independent dictator."

The opposition politician expressed certainty that Mr. Lukashenka had discussed the matter with the Kremlin before accepting the Ukrainian president's request.

Hosting talks on Ukraine would give a boost to Minsk's image in the eyes of the international community and help Russia portray Belarus as a neutral venue that is ideal for such talks, Mr. Vyachorka warned.