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Kerry, Lavrov to Discuss Ukraine in Late-Night Meeting

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are to meet late Sunday in Paris to discuss a solution for Ukraine.

Kerry and Lavrov are to meet at the residence of the Russian ambassador in Paris to follow up on a phone call late Friday between President Obama and President Putin about the need for a diplomatic solution, following Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

In recent days the concentration of Russian troops, tanks and warships near Ukraine's borders has expanded considerably, but Lavrov, told state television Saturday his country has no intention of sending these forces into Ukraine.

He said he believes the only way to achieve stability in Ukraine, where millions of Russian speakers live in the eastern regions, is to have a federal agreement giving the regional governments more autonomy.

Kerry had been heading back to Washington from Saudi Arabia, where President Obama met with King Abdullah Friday, when he learned of Lavrov's comments. The secretary's plane changed course during a refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland, and headed for Paris.

Ukraine's immediate neighbors - former Soviet republics that broke away from Moscow more than 20 years ago - and the Kremlin's former allies in Eastern Europe have strongly denounced Russia's pressure on Ukraine, and their views have been echoed throughout Western Europe. The U.N. General Assembly also voted overwhelmingly to oppose Russia's annexation of Crimea earlier this month.

The United States and its European allies have begun imposing economic sanctions against Russia, and there have been preliminary indications that those moves are already affecting the Russian economy.

The United States and others also have been pressing Russia to allow international monitors into Crimea to provide assurances that the ethnic-Ukrainian population there is safe from reprisals by pro-Russian militias and local authorities.

U.S. officials estimate Russia has massed 40,000 troops close to Ukraine's borders. Ukrainian government officials contend the Russian buildup around their northern, eastern and southern borders is closer to 100,000 troops.

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv plummeted nearly a month ago, after Russian forces moved into Crimea. A short-notice referendum quickly followed, resulting in a vote to declare independence from Ukraine and an intention to join the Russian Federation.

Mr. Putin and the Russian parliament subsequently annexed Crimea, making it a separate part of the Russian state.

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