22 May 2019 16:48

Matviyenko advises Zelensky to negotiate with Donbas representatives

MOSCOW. May 22 (Interfax) - Russia welcomes any positive messages from Kyiv aimed at normalizing relations with Moscow, but if Ukraine wants to hold a referendum, this should primarily concern the situation in Donbas, Russian Federation Council Chairperson Valentina Matviyenko said.

"We welcome any positive signals coming from the new Ukrainian leadership aimed at normalizing relations with the Russian Federation, because we understand how important it is to restore the historical, mutually beneficial, and fraternal relations between Russia and Ukraine," Matviyenko told journalists on Wednesday in commenting on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's idea to hold a referendum on relations with Russia.

Russia would not like Ukraine to shift responsibility for its domestic problems onto Russia in this format or another, she said.

She urged seeking a peaceful solution to the internal Ukrainian conflict.

"There is only one way here, and Russia is nothing to do with it. First of all, speaking of a referendum, they should sit at the negotiating table with their own people living in the LPR and DPR [self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic and Donetsk People's Republic]. This is the first and primary objective. No external actor, be it a regional or extra-regional one, is going to resolve this problem for them," Matviyenko said.

Ukraine should also strictly adhere to the Minsk Agreements, and "then the internal Ukrainian crisis and conflict will be resolved," she said.

She objected to turning good objectives into "some populist ones under the guise of democratic procedure."

"A referendum is always good, but before asking the people's opinion, you should correctly formulate [the question for a referendum], set it out, and try to persuade the people of your program and vision of the country's development and its foreign policy. After all, the question of a referendum can be worded in such a way that the answer will be known in advance," Matviyenko said.

It is therefore too early to talk about a referendum in Ukraine, she said. "It's too early to make any conclusions. Let the new president put together a team, write a program, determine domestic and foreign policy priorities, and determine the plans as to how they intend to normalize relations with Russia," she said.