MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday its ambassador to Kiev would attend the inauguration of Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko in spite of Moscow’s harsh criticism of Ukraine’s attempts to crush pro-Russian separatists.
Scores of separatist fighters and Ukrainian troops have been killed in heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine as Kiev has intensified its “anti-terrorist operation” since Poroshenko was elected on May 25.
“Russian ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov will take part in the inauguration ceremony of Ukraine’s elected president,” Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a briefing.
“He is returning to Kiev to continue with his duties,” Lukashevich added, more than three months after the envoy was recalled to Moscow in response to the ouster of pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich in mass protests.
It was unclear whether any other Russian officials would attend the inauguration ceremony on Saturday.
Moscow is at loggerheads with the West over Ukraine. Leaders of the world’s top industrialized nations - meeting without Russia’s Vladimir Putin - on Thursday threatened it with more sanctions over the crisis.
Russia denies accusations by Kiev and the West that it supports and arms separatist rebels fighting in Ukraine’s east. Ukraine says it could be doing much more to prevent fighters from crossing into the country, where Russian nationals have been seen in the separatists’ ranks.
“The unfounded statements by the Ukrainian authorities that trucks with arms are crossing the border are cunning,” Lukashevich said.
“It is completely clear that it is an internal Ukrainian crisis and the responsibility of the Ukrainian authorities is absolutely obvious,” he added.
Reporting by Katya Golubkova and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Mark Trevelyan