MOSCOW: Russia called on Ukraine's interim government on Monday to debate the country's future structure after separatists in two eastern regions claimed victory in referendums on self-rule.
In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said "the Kiev authorities continue to display a criminal lack of readiness for dialogue with their own people" and urged the government to hold meetings with representatives of eastern and southern regions.
"The preliminary results of the ballot counts convincingly show a real desire on the part of citizens of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions for the right to independently make decisions about issues that are vitally important to them," it said.
It stopped short of advocating independence for the regions or their absorption into Russia, saying: "We believe that the results of the referendum should be brought to life within the framework of dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk."
Moscow has amassed troops near the Ukrainian border, prompting fears that it could seek to absorb eastern regions where Russian-speakers predominate after annexing the Crimean peninsula in March.
Russia denies it has such intentions, but some analysts suspect President Vladimir Putin wants to take advantage of separatist sentiment in order to keep Ukraine unstable and prevent the pro-Western interim government from gaining control.