Ukraine holds talks to end crisis, rebels not invited

KIEV, (Reuters) – Ukraine’s interim leaders yesterday pushed a plan to allow the regions a greater say over their affairs, but the exclusion of separatists from round table talks cast doubt over whether the move could defuse the crisis.

The talks brought together politicians and civil groups in an effort to quell a pro-Russian rebellion in the industrialised Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, which has triggered fears of a break-up of the former Soviet republic.

They came at a tense moment for Kiev. On Tuesday, seven soldiers were killed in an ambush near the city of Kramatorsk, the deadliest attack on security forces since they were sent to tackle the uprising in the east in April.

Voters in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk backed self-rule in two referendums held on Sunday despite protestations from Kiev, which sees Russia’s hand behind the rebellion and denounced the votes as illegal.

After the voting, rebel leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk called for their regions to become part of Russia although this call has not been taken up by Moscow.

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