KIEV: Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine urged Kiev Tuesday to recognise their independence and denied that peace proposals presented a day earlier in Minsk contemplated any plan to stay within Ukraine.
"The self-proclaimed people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk do not want to remain within the limits of Ukraine, whether in its territorial, political or financial aspects," Efe quoted Alexander Zakharchenko, one of the most prominent rebel leaders, as saying.
"There has been no talk of any federation within the Ukraine. It is a basic issue," said Andrei Purgin, head of the separatist delegation to Monday's round of consultations with representatives of the Kiev government, mediated by Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The rebels arrived in the Belarusian capital with a demand for "special status" for the insurgent regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.
"We can say that we are going to retain socio-cultural spaces for Ukrainians. However, there is no doubt that we are part of the Russian world," Purgin said.
He made it clear, however, that the Ukrainian parliamentary elections scheduled for Oct 26 will not be allowed in the territories under separatist control.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin called on the separatists to show the "political will" to continue with consultations about a ceasefire and prisoner exchanges.
He said talks between the two sides will resume in the near future, but did not confirm the date announced by Purgin, who had said that the parties agreed to meet again on Friday.
Meanwhile, the rebel militias continued their successful counter-offensive.
At least 15 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 49 were wounded Tuesday, when the separatists managed to open a third front on the coast of the Sea of Azov.
Kiev accuses the rebels of receiving substantial military aid from Russia and charges that Russian regular troops took part in the offensive on Novoazovsk, about 45 km from Mariupol.
Moscow acknowledges the presence in the militias of volunteers from Russia, but denies that its armed forces are involved in the fighting.
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