Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the U.S. and Russia do not have a “common vision” on the next steps in Ukraine, suggesting there’s been no progress toward averting a controversial referendum set for Sunday.
Lavrov was speaking from London, where he met for approximately six hours with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss potential diplomatic solutions to the Ukrainian crisis. Kerry stepped to the podium a little less than an hour after Lavrov, warning of the sanctions to come should the referendum continue as planned.
Lavrov reiterated that Russia would respect the result of the Crimean referendum set to be held Sunday, which will determine whether Crimea will become part of Russia. Reading out their conversation, Kerry said Lavrov made it clear Russian President Vladimir Putin would not make any further decisions on Ukraine until after the referendum on Sunday.
Kerry said, however, that the United States and the international community would not recognise the results of the referendum.
“That is a decision of enormous consequence with respect to the global community,” he said of Putin.
Both the U.S. and European Union have said the referendum violates international law and is illegal under Ukraine’s constitution. If Crimea votes to succeed, as expected, sanctions on Russian and Crimean individuals directly involved in the crisis could be handed down as soon as Monday. President Barack Obama has already ordered some limited sanctions, while Congress failed to agree on a stronger bill because of a partisan dispute.
The meeting came amid renewed, escalating tensions with the situation in the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Ukraine security chief Andriy Parubiy claimed on Thursday that Russia has moved about 80,000 solders, 270 tanks, 370 artillery systems, and 140 combat aircraft near the Ukrainian border.
But Lavrov said Russia does not have any plans to invade southeastern Ukraine, something that would dramatically escalate the crisis.
“Russia doesn’t and can’t have any plans to invade southeastern regions of Ukraine,” Lavrov said.
The State Department posted multiple photos of the meeting between Kerry and Lavrov — sitting around a table and on a bench, and walking through the yard of the U.S. Ambassador’s home. But after almost six hours of talks, both countries’ positions did not change at all.
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