Russia 'ready for dialogue' with new Ukraine leadership, says Lavrov

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Moscow was willing to talk with Ukraine's newly elected president Petro Poroshenko.

"We are ready for dialogue with Kiev's representatives, with Petro Poroshenko," Mr Lavrov said at a joint press conference with his South Sudanese counterpart Barnaba Marial Benjamin.

"We are ready for pragmatic dialogue, on an equal footing, based on respect for all agreements, in particular in the commercial, economic and gas spheres," he said.

"As the president (Vladimir Putin) has said, we respect the result of the choice of the Ukrainian people."

But Mr Lavrov also warned Ukraine that it should end its military campaign against pro-Moscow rebels in the country's east, dubbed "anti-terrorist operations" by Kiev.

He said he understood Kiev planned "to resume the active phase of the anti-terrorist operations" now that Sunday's election was over.

"That would be a colossal mistake," Mr Lavrov said, calling for "real dialogue" between Kiev and the rebels.

"The chance now to establish mutually respectful and equal dialogue, the results of which Russia is ready to respect, should not be missed," he said.

"Perhaps the most important thing is that the current government respect its citizens, have respect for the people and achieve compromise agreements that take into account the interests of all forces, all ethnic and religious groups, because without this hardly anything can happen," he said.