The Cable

Ukrainian PM Blasts Separatists: ‘We Will Never Talk to Terrorists’

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk rejected criticisms from Russia on Wednesday that the embattled government in Kiev is failing to work towards reconciliation with separatists leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk.

BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 01:  Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk attends a press conference  with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) following talks at the Chancellery on April 1, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Yatsenyuk and Merkel met to discuss the tense situation in eastern Ukraine, among other issues.  (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 01: Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk attends a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) following talks at the Chancellery on April 1, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Yatsenyuk and Merkel met to discuss the tense situation in eastern Ukraine, among other issues. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk rejected criticisms from Russia on Wednesday that the embattled government in Kiev is failing to work toward reconciliation with separatist leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Using particularly blunt language, the Ukrainian leader said Russia’s calls for reconciliation are disingenuous and that pro-Moscow separatists were unfit for negotiations at this stage in the conflict. “My government will never talk to terrorists” until they are “behind bars or sitting in a prison cell,” he told a small group of reporters in Washington on Wednesday. “Russia wants us to establish a direct contact with the terrorists. We will never talk to terrorists.”

Yatsenyuk made the comments alongside Ukraine’s Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko. The two officials have met with a number of U.S. officials this week, including Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, in order to generate support for Ukraine’s cash-strapped government.

Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and the ensuing violence in the country’s east badly set back Ukraine’s already troubled economy. Plagued by high inflation, the country has cut off subsidies and frozen popular social programs. Yatsenyuk and Jaresko are hoping to secure the next payout of International Monetary Fund money, which is part of the West’s $40 billion bailout program for the country.

The officials are also seeking additional military support, although they did not detail specific types of equipment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s end game, Yatsenyuk charged, is to turn Ukraine into a “failed state,” an outcome the Ukrainian leader said could be prevented with Western support.

Putin, on Wednesday, traveled to Vatican City to meet Pope Francis in a 50-minute meeting. The pontiff urged him to make a “sincere and great effort” to forge peace in Ukraine and appeared noticeably rigid during the meeting, according to reports.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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