UK & World News
US, EU And Russia To Hold Ukraine Crisis Talks
Top-level talks over the Ukraine crisis are to be held between the Kiev government and the US, EU and Russia in Geneva next week.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to be joined by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Deshchytsya.
Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs chief, confirmed she would also be taking part in the discussions on Thursday.
She said the European Union was "fully engaged in the diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine and to find a political solution".
Details of the gathering emerged as the US announced sanctions against six of Crimea's breakaway leaders.
They include the officials who helped secure a referendum in the peninsula and signed the deal with Russia to split from the Ukraine.
Also on the list is a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state gas company whose assets have been seized by the Crimean authorities.
Earlier, Ukraine's Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, promised new powers for regional governments while meeting with officials in Donetsk - where pro-Russian supporters have erected barbed-wire barricades and occupied government buildings.
It was his first visit to eastern Ukraine since the crisis began.
"This is a very important day - a day for open dialogue and honest conversation," he said.
He also pledged to defend the rights of Russian speakers in the country.
"I will be the first to guarantee the right of every Ukrainian to speak any language they want," he said later in a TV interview.
"I have never met any Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would say he wants protection because he is not allowed to speak Russian."
Russian troops in March took control of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula after local citizens - the majority of whom are ethnic Russians - voted in a referendum to secede and join Russia.
The US and other Western countries have accused Moscow of massing troops on Ukraine's border to maintain the pressure on the government in Kiev, and possibly for military use.
However, Moscow has denied stoking tensions in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for sending in troops.
Mr Lavrov said on Friday that Russia "cannot have such desires" because it "goes against Russia's fundamental interests".
"We have no troops there by definition," he added.
"We don't have our soldiers there, and we don't have our agents there."