WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday to discuss Ukraine's political transition and to seek clarity regarding Russia's posture toward its vulnerable neighbor following Russia's surprise combat readiness drills on Wednesday and the Russian government's outspoken opposition to Ukraine's interim government.
Kerry discussed the content of his conversation with Lavrov after concluding a working lunch with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
"This morning, I called Foreign Minister Lavrov and we talked at some length about the transition and the events in Ukraine and in the region. And I asked specifically that Russia work with the United States and with our friends and allies in order to support Ukraine, to rebuild unity, security, and a healthy economy. And we also discussed the very tense situation in Crimea."
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin directed the military to conduct surprise combat readiness drills. The military exercise, Lavrov claimed, "is not related to the Ukraine and was previously scheduled."
Moreover, Kerry emphasized, Lavrov "reaffirmed President Putin’s statement that Russia will respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine."
With Russia's message delivered, Kerry said it was now time "to step back and avoid any kind of provocations. And we want to see in the next days ahead... that the choices Russia makes conform to this affirmation that we received today."