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Published: Thursday June 12, 2014 MYT 3:05:09 AM
Updated: Thursday June 12, 2014 MYT 3:05:09 AM

Russia tells U.S. that Kiev must stop operation in east Ukraine

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday that the Ukrainian government must stop its military operation and agree a ceasefire with separatists, the Foreign Ministry said.

In a phone conversation with Kerry, Lavrov also emphasised "the importance of direct talks" between the government and pro-Russian rebels and the need to alleviate humanitarian problems in southeastern Ukraine, the ministry said.

Lavrov "underscored the need for the swiftest halt by Kiev of its military operation in the southeast, agreement on terms of a ceasefire, a solution to acute humanitarian issues and ... real national dialogue on Ukraine's future structure."

The statement said Lavrov and Kerry both voiced support for efforts by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to defuse the Ukraine crisis, which has led to dozens of deaths and driven Russian-U.S. ties to a post-Cold War low.

Russia has repeatedly called on the pro-Western government in Ukraine to halt its campaign to quash the rebels, while the United States and European nations have accused Moscow of supporting the separatists.

Russia angered Kiev and the West by annexing Ukraine's Crimea region in March, after protesters ousted a Ukrainian president who had sought to orient the country of 46 million toward its Soviet-era master Moscow rather than Europe.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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