US Secretary of State John Kerry to hold talks with 'major figures in the Ukrainian opposition' on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, senior State Department official confirms
In a major show of support for pro-democracy protesters in Ukraine, US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with top opposition leaders for the first time in Germany, senior US officials said on Thursday.
On the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference opening this weekend, Kerry will "have an opportunity to have his first meeting with the major figures in the Ukrainian opposition" on Saturday, a senior State Department official said.
Among those slated to hold talks with the top US diplomat are UDAR (Punch) party leader and former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko and opposition politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Kerry is also expected to meet Ukraine's Eurovision Song Contest pop star winner Ruslana, who has been encouraging the protesters on Independence Square over the past weeks with free performances.
"We've been cautiously optimistic that this dialogue between the government and the opposition is beginning to bear fruit," the US official told reporters on a conference call.
"There's the question of whether they can move on to form a government of national unity. So they're coming to Munich in the middle of this negotiating process on what the political compact might look like going forward."
The official spoke just before Kerry's plane left Andrews Air Force Base en route first for Berlin as part of a three-day trip to Germany.
Representatives of the Ukrainian government were also expected to attend the Munich talks, including Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara.
The Ukrainian opposition leaders would have the chance to meet a number of players and the international stakeholders in the political crisis, triggered when President Viktor Yanukovych ditched plans to sign an association agreement with the EU, and struck a multibillion-dollar deal instead with former Soviet master Russia.
In many of Kerry's bilateral meetings, the US will also be "talking about how we support what we hope will now be a process back to democracy" in Ukraine, the US official added.
Edited by Steve Wilson