| 15.8°C Belfast

Hague and Kerry to discuss Ukraine


Foreign Secretary William Hague

Foreign Secretary William Hague

Foreign Secretary William Hague

Foreign Secretary William Hague will join US counterpart John Kerry for talks on emergency support for Ukraine today as Moscow questioned the legitimacy of the country's interim leaders.

Mr Hague has warned that Ukraine faces imminent economic collapse without support from the international community and Washington has said it stands ready to plough in cash with other partners to stabilise the nation.

British forensic experts are in the country helping to ascertain who is responsible for shooting dozens of protesters last week, it has been reported.

More than 80 people, primarily demonstrators, were killed in clashes with security forces in the bloodiest violence in Ukraine's post-Soviet history.

The investigators, who did not want to be named, told BBC's Newsnight that they had already discovered positions from which government snipers had fired on protesters, and had found evidence which could be used in prosecutions.

One told the BBC: "It was just a bloodbath really, wasn't it? We're looking at the sniper positions and who would be responsible for the deaths of the people in that area."

The Foreign Office would not comment on whether the UK Government is helping investigations into the shootings in Kiev.

A spokeswoman said: "We think it is first and foremost for the Ukrainian authorities to conduct thorough and transparent investigations into all reported incidents of violence, in line with international standards. We encourage them to do so."

Ousted president Viktor Yanukovych has reportedly fled to a pro-Russian area in Ukraine and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said authorities in the country had taken power as a result of "armed mutiny".

"If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks who are roaming Kiev to be the government, then it will be hard for us to work with that government," he said.

During his visit to Washington, Mr Hague will discuss the country's financial plight with the International Monetary Fund.

"Ukraine's financial situation is very serious and without outside assistance may not be sustainable," he told MPs yesterday. "An economic crisis in Ukraine would be a grave threat to the country's stability and have damaging wider consequences."

While support could be provided quickly once it was requested by a new government in Kiev, Mr Hague said it would require a commitment to reform.

"It requires a stable and legitimate government to be in place and a commitment to the reforms necessary to produce economic stability. International financial support cannot be provided without conditions and clarity that it will be put to proper use," he said.

Mr Hague, who discussed the issue by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and stressed it was " important that all channels of communication between the EU and Russia stay open".

Despite tensions between western Ukraine, where opposition to Mr Yanukovych was strongest, and the Russian-speaking east, which traditionally looks more to Moscow, Mr Hague said Mr Lavrov had emphasised Russia's commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

He told MPs that the Russian foreign minister had not raised any prospect of military intervention by the Kremlin in the country.

"Any notion of this kind is manifestly not in the interests of Russia, as well as not in the interests of Ukraine. I hope that point is well understood," he said.

Downing Street said the Government would continue to talk to the Russian government "at all levels" regularly over Ukraine's future and is in contact with the interim authorities in Kiev through the ambassador.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The Foreign Office, as would usually be the case, is in the lead through our embassy that's on the ground there in Ukraine and the PM, Foreign Secretary and others will be in touch with their counterparts.

"What we are doing is supporting the aspirations of the Ukrainian people, supporting them, ensuring that all their voices are being heard and that's why, when the Foreign Secretary was in the House yesterday, he was underlining the need to support the Ukrainian authorities in the work they are doing around constitutional reform, the move to free elections including presidential elections in the coming next few months. So that's what we in the international community are focused on doing."

The Prime Minister will discuss the situation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she visits London on Thursday.

"The focus will be how the international community continues to work very closely together in a range of spheres, what European countries can do in order to support the political transition through to new elections, what the international community can be doing in the economic sphere, for example through the IMF."