By Mick Krever, CNN
Ukrainian and Russian ministers are talking to each other, including Prime Ministers Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Dmitry Medvedev, Ukrainian Economy and Trade Minister Pavlo Sheremeta told CNN’s Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
“It’s not uniformal [sic] rejection of the Ukrainian government,” Sheremeta said from Kiev. “We are communicating, we are talking, and that’s the right thing to do.”
“I think our prime minister talked to the Russian prime minister,” he said, and added that the Ukrainian energy minister had also spoken to his Russian counterpart.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as other foreign ministers, has urged talks between Russia and Ukraine to negotiate an end to the standoff over the Ukrainian region of Crimea, of which Russian troops remain in effective control.
It is not clear if those discussions constituted real negotiations.
Ukraine’s top negotiator with the Crimean government Petro Poroshenko told Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that the two countries’ defense ministers had spoken, but it was “not a negotiation, unfortunately.”
“We have lots of common challenges,” Sheremeta said, striking an optimistic tone.
“The issue of getting out of the middle-income trap – that’s the issue of slowing growth, that’s the issue of increasing labor productivity – you know, how to get, how to go out of the resource-based economy into knowledge-based economy.”
“We have lots of issues that we need to find solutions together with Russia, not against Russia,” he said. “Let’s tackle those challenges rather than pointing guns at each other.”
Ukraine is facing a financial black hole, and in the past two days the U.S. and UK have tried to plug that hole with massive loan guarantees.
The “Ukrainian economy is deficit-addict[ed],” Sheremeta told Gorani. “We need to get out of that disease. We believe that conditions that are set forward by the international organizations…these conditions help us. This is a cure in many respects.”
Western loans, he insisted, are not the same as Russian aid – trading “one lifeline for another lifeline,” as Gorani put it in a question.
“The conditions attached and strings attached are quite different,” he said. “And what we have with the Western assistance and Western loans, international loans, is a pretty clear set of conditions, and this was made in public – that’s very important.”
At the moment however, all eyes are on Crimea, not on the financial situation.
Sheremeta said that there is “no doubt” that Crimea is part of Ukraine, but left open the possibility that the Crimean people could decide a different path for themselves in the future.
“Crimea already has a sizeable autonomy within Ukraine. If Crimean people want to have more autonomy, let’s discuss that.”