Ukraine must have real, not cosmetic, constitutional reform-Russia

by Reuters
Friday, 4 April 2014 12:24 GMT

((adds name of Russian foreign minister to 3rd para quote)

MOSCOW, April 4 (Reuters) - Russia urged Ukraine on Friday to carry out genuine rather than "cosmetic" constitutional reform, pressing Moscow's call for the former Soviet republic to give more power to its regions which have many Russian speakers.

Russia argues that constitutional reforms, which Kiev is now undertaking, are happening behind closed doors, without public debate, underlining its fears that the interests of Ukraine's Russian-speaking community will not be taken into account.

"One needs to deal with real constitutional reform, not just cosmetic, and for that one needs to stop meddling in the internal affairs of Ukraine," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a joint news conference with other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a Russian-dominated bloc of former Soviet republics.

"Otherwise it looks like the West has taken up the role of arbiter of Ukraine's fate, while the current authorities ... lack significant independence," he said.

CIS Executive Secretary Lebedev said other members of the group hoped Ukraine would remain a member of the group and that the country had taken part in the Moscow talks.

Ukraine's interim government said last month it could review Kiev's membership of the CIS after Russia annexed the Crimea region in the wake of the fall of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to a protest movement seeking closer relations with Europe.

The Kiev government complained that other CIS members had supported Moscow's takeover of the Crimean Peninsula, which has a slim, ethnic Russian majority. There are also many Russian speakers in the east of Ukraine.

Ukraine also said it no longer wished to serve as 2014 chairman of the CIS, which has limited decision-making power.

Kiev's current, pro-European leaders and the West condemned Russia's annexation of Crimea as illegal under international law, and the United States and EU have imposed limited sanctions on Moscow. (Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, writing by Elizabeth Piper, editing by Jason Bush and Mark Heinrich)

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