World News

Kerry, Lavrov to Meet for Ukraine Crisis Talks



U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet Sunday in Paris, trying for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis that would reverse Russia's buildup of military forces surrounding Ukraine.

U.S. officials who confirmed the Paris talks did not give specific details. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns, who has been traveling with Kerry, reported from Ireland that the talks are expected to take place late Sunday.

A lengthy telephone discussion between President Barack Obama and Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin triggered the new round of talks. The new round of diplomacy is seen as an effort to defuse the Ukraine crisis, which in a matter of weeks has become the most serious dispute between Russia and the U.S. since the end of the Cold War.

The United States and its allies have insisted on a diplomatic solution for the Ukraine dispute, including Russia's controversial annexation of the strategic Crimean peninsula. In recent days the concentration of Russian troops, tanks and warships near Ukraine's borders has expanded considerably, but Lavrov, Russia's top diplomat, told state television Saturday that his country has no intention of sending these forces into Ukraine.

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.

Lavrov's pledge that Russia "absolutely" will not make any military move into Ukraine was not followed by any official statement giving President Putin's views on the matter. The Kremlin leader initiated the telephone contact with President Obama Friday, but some observers say it is unclear whether Mr. Putin will explicitly confirm his foreign minister's comments. They raise the possibility that Moscow may be reacting to its growing isolation over the Ukraine issue.

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 United Nations 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 U.S. 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.

The Russian military buildup around Ukraine raised fears that President Putin's policies were steering his nation toward "a new Cold War." 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 in open support of a breakaway movement there whose activities Ukraine said were illegal. Pro-Russian forces in Crimea unilaterally proposed and held a short-notice referendum in Crimea, a vote that declared the Black Sea territory independent of Ukrainian control by a margin of more than nine to one. Since then local authorities in Crimea have been seizing control of Ukrainian state assets and removing any evidence that the territory is part of Ukraine.

Mr. Putin and the Russian parliament subsequently annexed Crimea, making it a separate part of the Russian state although no part of Crimea borders Russian soil.

In Ukraine Saturday, opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko dropped out of the race for president and threw his support behind billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko.

Ukraine's former president Viktor Yanukovych left Kyiv for asylum in Russia after large-scale demonstrations against him last month, and the parliament in Kyiv called a presidential election for May.

Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion, told delegates from his party the only way for the opposition to take over full control in Ukraine is to nominate, support and elect "a single candidate representing democratic forces."

Poroshenko and former prime minister Yulia Timoshenko are now the clear frontrunners in the May 25 election.

Ms. Tymoshenko was freed from prison during the tumult of the uprising against Mr. Yanukovych, who had defeated her in Ukraine's last previous presidential election, in 2010. last month. She had been jailed since 2011 on charges of abuse of office.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs