Feb.07 - A leaked conversation between U.S. officials on how a future Kiev government might look ratchets up tensions between Russia and the U.S. over the crisis in Ukraine. The development comes soon after the Ukrainian central bank announces restrictions on foreign exchange purchases to try to halt a dramatic slide in the country's hryvnia currency. David Pollard reports.
REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT OF THE AUDIO RECORDING OF US ASSISTANT SCRETARY OF STATE VICTORIA NULAND, WHICH HAS BEEN OBTAINED FROM A SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE. UPSOUND (SOUNDBITE) (English) FEMALE AND MALE VOICES, PURPORTED TO BE THOSE OF U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE VICTORIA NULAND AND US AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE GEOFFREY PYATT, DURING PHONE CONVERSATION, SAYING: NULAND: "What do you think?." PYATT: "I think we're in play, uh ....'' The leaked conversation was posted online in what U.S. officials denounced as a ''new low in Russian tradecraft''. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland is apparently discussing the make-up of a new government in Ukraine with the U.S. ambassador there - and whether opposition leader Vitaly Klitscho should be part of it. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FEMALE AND MALE VOICES, PURPORTED TO BE THOSE OF U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE VICTORIA NULAND AND US AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE GEOFFREY PYATT, DURING PHONE CONVERSATION, SAYING: NULAND: ''So I don't think Klitsch [Klitschko] should go into the government. I don't think it's necessary, I don't think it's a good idea." PYATT: "Yeah. I mean I guess, you think, in terms of him not going into the government, just let him sort of stay out and do his political homework and stuff.'' Nuland apologised to the EU for strong language she used in referring to its role in Ukraine. And later, when she spoke in Kiev, there was an attempt at some fence-mending. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, VICTORIA NULAND, SAYING: "Our message has been that we all - Ukrainians, Russians, Americans, all of Ukraine's neighbours - have an interest in a stable, peaceful, democratic Ukraine.'' There appears to be little immediate prospect of progress. A senIor Russian aide in Kiev is accusing Washington of arming, funding and training rebels in Ukraine - and calling for a crack down on protesters. And the crisis is claiming a new victim: the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia. Some investors blame its ten percent slide since November on preexisting economic problems. Others argue Russia should be aware of its handling of the crisis, if only for its own sake. Alpesh Patel of Praefinium Partners. SOUNDBITE (English) Alpesh Patel Founding Principal, Praefinium Partners, saying: ''It certainly isn't of interest for Russia to aggravate it, given that they really do need foreign direct investment. Of course, it's a rich country, but it does need greater capital investment.'' Russian president Vladimir Putin was greeting world leaders at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. He's thought likely to meet Ukraine's President Yanukovich to discuss candidates for a new government in Kiev - and to chew over the question of who will replace the pro-Russian prime minister that resigned last week.