News / Europe

In Paris, a Diplomatic Push for Ukraine Solution

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks into his vehicle on arrival in Paris, March 29, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks into his vehicle on arrival in Paris, March 29, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are scheduled to meet in Paris Sunday as Washington and Moscow work toward a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine.

Kerry and Lavrov will meet at the residence of the Russian ambassador to follow up on a late Friday telephone conversation between Russian President Vladmir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama about the need for a diplomatic settlement.

The White House says Obama told Putin that Russia must pull back troops from the Ukrainian border and not move deeper into Ukraine. The Kremlin says Putin is suggesting "possible steps the global community can take to help stabilize the situation."

In coordination with the new interim government in Kyiv, Washington is pressing Russia to open talks to defuse tensions and allow international monitors into the disputed region of Crimea to assure the safety of Ukrainians who are based there.

In a Moscow-backed referendum, Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia following last month's collapse of the pro-Russian government in Kyiv. But most of the international community refuses to recognize the results of that referendum, and many Western nations have already imposed economic sanctions against Russia. Preliminary indications suggest those moves are already affecting the Russian economy, and the United States and its European allies are also threatening tougher sanctions if Russia's troops push deeper into Ukraine.

Apparent progress toward easing the most serious U.S.-Russian standoff since the end of the Cold War follows Moscow's insistence that it will go no further than annexing Crimea — for now. Lavrov spoke Saturday on Russian television.

"Russia has absolutely no intention of — or interest in — crossing Ukraine's borders," Lavrov said in the televised statement.

"Moscow wants only for the work to resolve the crisis to be multilateral," he added, explaining that he would want any negotiated agreement to stop what he calls "riots that the West is trying to cover up."

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.

Kerry and Lavrov enter Sunday's talks with what American University professor Keith Darden calls distinctly different views of Ukraine — with Moscow seeing a chaotic, U.S.-backed rebellion that threatens Russian interests, while Washington sees a "somewhat messy" move toward more representative rule.

"So the Maidan, for us, was democratic mobilization," Darden said. "For the Russians, it's Western-sponsored regime change. And I think that gap is just going to be there. This is a fundamental difference in the way our two countries see the world. And that's not going away anytime soon."

Putin mum

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 Putin will explicitly confirm his foreign minister's comments. Some observers have suggested 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 echoed throughout Western Europe. The United Nations General Assembly also voted overwhelmingly to oppose Russia's annexation of Crimea earlier this month.

The ongoing Russian military buildup around Ukraine raised fears that Putin's policies were steering his nation toward "a new Cold War." U.S. officials estimate Russia has amassed 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.

Elections

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 Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform 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.

Tymoshenko was freed from prison amid the tumult of the Yanukovych uprising. Yanukovych had defeated her in Ukraine's previous presidential election, in 2010. Until last month she had been jailed since 2011 on charges of abuse of office.

PHOTOS: Developments in Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula
  • People stand outside a closed McDonalds restaurant. The fast food restaurant chain announced this week that it is shuttering its three outlets in the Crimean peninsula over unspecified operations issues, Simferopol, Crimea, April 4, 2004.
  • People gather outside a currency exchange office in the Crimean city of Simferopol, April 4, 2014.
  • People stand in line as they wait to enter a branch of the Sberbank of Russia bank in the Crimean city of Simferopol, April 4, 2014.
  • Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said during an interview with Reuters that the Kyiv government will stick to unpopular austerity measures "as the price of independence" as Russia steps up pressure on Ukraine to destabilize, Kyiv, April 3, 2014.
  • Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov visits a military exhibition near the settlement of Desna in Chernigov region, Ukraine, April 2, 2014.
  • Ukrainian soldiers watch as an army medic helicopter flies above during a military exhibition near the settlement of Desna in Chernigov region, April 2, 2014.
  • People pass by barricades near the Dnipro Hotel in Kyiv, April 1, 2014.
  • Self-defense activists pass by the Dnipro Hotel in Kyiv, April 1, 2014.
  • Members of the Ukrainian far-right radical group Right Sector leave their headquarters in Dnipro Hotel as police special forces stand guard, Kyiv, April 1, 2014.
  • Commuters walk along railway lines next to Ukrainian tanks ready to depart from Crimea near Simferopol, March 31, 2014.
  • Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits Crimea to consider priorities for its economic development, Simferopol, March 31, 2014.
  • Ukrainians, in accordance with Orthodox Church tradition of marking the 40th day since death, remember those who lost their lives during pro-Europe protests in Kyiv, March 30, 2014. 

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by: M from: USA
March 29, 2014 11:50 AM
Sounds like Hitler and Chamberlin all over again. Pretty astonishing that they are actually believing this rubbish from Putin. He is so much smarter than the West gives him credit for.
In Response

by: Tom Murphy from: Northern Virginia
March 31, 2014 6:12 PM
To: meatball
Actually, the USA has 100 nations behind it as can be seen from the vote of the UN General Assembly and Russia has 10 nations (like Sudan, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Cuba) behind it. Even China refused to vote with Russia and chose to abstain instead. The USA seeks consensus before taking action as in Iraq where a broad coalition of muslim nations agreed with the US actions and even contributed troops, tanks and aircraft. The same situation happened in Libya where the USA took a decidedly secondary role to other nations carrying the main fight.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
March 29, 2014 12:27 PM
TRUTHFULLY.... The US wouldn't do a single thing, if they didn't have 27 other NATO countries backing them up, would they? ... YES, the US is brave in attacking other countries, with the support of the other 27 NATO countries, aren't they? .... Would you want the US to fight Russia by itself, against Russia? .... Did you say NO?

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
March 29, 2014 11:42 AM
Lol, Russia would never give up Crimea, so how did you America solve the crisis? America is a paper tiger, lol

by: meanbill from: USA
March 29, 2014 11:24 AM
THE WISE MAN said it; ... The problems in Ukraine, is the Ukraine's themselves !!!
When the Ukrainians overthrew their Democratic government, they entered a lawless state with no leader to lead them, and chaos, violence, and anarchy has followed, with criminal armed gangs, and ultra-right-wing Ukrainian extremists taking control..... Russia says they need real constitutional reforms, and a real Democratic elected government, that the 27 NATO countries resist.... (Like in Libya, NATO interfered, and destroyed the country, like they're doing to Ukraine)... REALLY
In Response

by: Tom Murphy from: Northern Virginia
March 31, 2014 11:56 PM
In Libya, NATO participated in the military defeat of a violent dictator who was killing his own innocent people. The former president of Ukraine was also killing his own innocent people. Didn't Russia also participate in the military defeat of a violent dictator who was killing his own people when it invaded Nazi Germany?

The description of the Ukrainian people overthrowing their government, given above, sounds a lot like the events and actions of the Russian revolution of 1917. Let the Ukrainian people set up their own constitution with guidance from the EU. A Russian hand writing the Ukrainian constitution would only serve Russia and not the needs of the Ukrainian people.
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 30, 2014 1:37 PM
We'll, all the wealth was plundered by yankyovxch and given to his stooges and stoogettes and shuttled to russia!

by: Dacite from: Canada
March 29, 2014 11:15 AM
What about Latvia?
In Response

by: hassan rouhani from: iran
March 30, 2014 9:39 AM
USA is a satan, always oppressing other nations. Long live V Putin.

by: Serega from: New York
March 29, 2014 10:58 AM
Lavrov maybe don't want war with Ukraine but Putin 100% want.

by: meanbill from: USA
March 29, 2014 10:19 AM
THE WISE MAN said it; ... People 'see' what they want to see, and the US with 27 other western NATO countries supporting them, with manpower, financial and political power, SEE camouflaged Russian troops, they can't 'see' because they're camouflaged?
CRAZY isn't it? ... Russia used the (NATO rules) for "Humanitarian reasons" to intervene in Ukraine to save the innocent Russians in Crimea..... NATO thinks they're the only one's who can attack other countries under their (NATO rules).....
(The NATO Rules?) .. Are the rules the US and all of the other 27 (bully) countries of NATO, made-up to use, to attack little Yugoslavia (Serbia) under these new (NATO rules), for "Humanitarian reasons" to save Albanians in Yugoslavia (Serbia), and took their land to form KOSOVO....
In Response

by: Tom Murphy from: Northern Virginia
April 01, 2014 12:02 AM
NATO has only resorted to acts of war when mass murder of innocent people and crimes against humanity were being committed. Russia invades when a former vassal state seeks independence, equality and human rights.
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