Russia denies trying to destabilise Ukraine

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed on Tuesday U.S. accusations that Moscow was destabilising Ukraine and said the situation could improve only if Kiev took into account the interests of Russian-speaking regions. Moscow and Washington are at loggerheads over the conflict in Ukraine, where Russia has seized Crimea and says it has the right to protect Russian speakers and ethnic Russians from what it describes as a threat from far-right leaders in Kiev. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Lavrov on Monday that Russia would suffer consequences if it further destabilised Ukraine. But at a news conference in Moscow with Angolan Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti, Lavrov said: "One should not seek to put the blame on someone else." The Ukrainian government sought on Tuesday to restore order in cities in the east of the country where pro-Moscow crowds took over regional government buildings on Sunday. Kiev says Moscow orchestrated the moves to try to dismember Ukraine. The State Department said after the telephone call between Lavrov and Kerry that the two leaders had discussed convening direct talks in the next 10 days between Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union to defuse tensions. "We are ready to consider a multi-party format during which the Europeans, the United States, Russia and the Ukrainian side would be represented," Lavrov said. But he added that no dates had been discussed, pending clarity on the format and agenda of such talks. He suggested such talks would make sense only if Kiev took into account the interests of people in mainly Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine. "We are deeply convinced ... that the situation cannot be calmed down and changed into national dialogue if the Ukrainian authorities go on ignoring the interests of the southeastern regions of the country," Lavrov said. The West has criticised Russia for massing troops near the border with Ukraine and says Moscow has pulled back only a small number of forces. Russia has said the Ukrainian authorities should stop massing their own military forces in the southeast, warning that the troop concentration could lead to civil war. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage)