Beijing: Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov Tuesday warned Kiev against using force to quell pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine, saying the "criminal" act would undermine talks planned in Geneva.
"One cannot issue invitations to talks while at the same time issuing criminal orders for the use of armed force against the people there," he said in a visit to Beijing.
"You can`t send in tanks and at the same time hold talks, and the use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva," he said.
Top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union have scheduled for Thursday a four-way meeting in Geneva, the latest step in a flurry of diplomacy aimed at easing the worst European security crisis in decades.
US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland earlier played down US expectations for the summit, although she maintained that "it is very important to keep that diplomatic door open and will see what they bring".
In unusually strong language at a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Lavrov accused Kiev of "spreading lies" that Russia is dispatching pro-Moscow forces to Ukraine`s southeast.
"This is a total lie that supposes that those residents there are completely incapable of protesting of their own will," Lavrov said.
Russia "in principle" supports the idea of four-way talks, Lavrov added, although he cautioned that they must be "genuine and not merely for show".
"So, if the Ukrainian foreign ministry says Russia is afraid to hold these talks in Geneva, don`t believe it," he added. "It`s a lie."