Ukraine crisis: Lavrov agrees with Kerry that February 21 accord should be upheld

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that he and US Secretary of State John Kerry agreed that Ukraine should uphold a deal signed two weeks ago between now-ousted president Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition.

"We agreed that it is necessary to help Ukrainians, all Ukrainians to fulfil the agreements that were reached February 21," Mr Lavrov said at a televised briefing after talks with Mr Kerry in Paris.

In a brief statement, Mr Lavrov said that he and Mr Kerry were about to go to the French foreign ministry to meet the French, Polish and German foreign ministers who countersigned the February 21 agreement.

The accord in question granted major concessions to the opposition, which are now in power in Kiev, including early elections and the formation of a new unity government.

The February 21 deal was swiftly overtaken by events as Mr Yanukovych left Kiev the night it was signed, leaving the opposition in charge of the capital.

The parliament the next day switched sides and passed sweeping measures that included the release of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko and early presidential elections for May 25.

Mr Lavrov hinted at a more conciliatory tone from Mr Kerry, who has bluntly told Russia that it faces sanctions over its intervention in Ukraine and risks losing its place in the G8 group of wealthy nations. On Tuesday, Mr Kerry accused Moscow of seeking a "pretext" to invade further.

Mr Lavrov said in his comments Wednesday that "Kerry acknowledged that... in conditions of threats and ultimatums, it is very difficult to work on honest agreements that will then help the Ukrainain people to stabilise the situation."

Russia has repeatedly insisted that Ukraine should abide by the February 21 deal even though the Kremlin mediator present at the talks, Vladimir Lukin, declined to sign it.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Mr Yanukovych remained Ukraine's legitimate president although he had surrendered his powers and had no political future.

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