Kerry: Putin won't decide anything on Ukraine until secession vote

March 14, 2014 at 2:37 PM
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LONDON, March 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. top diplomat ended talks with his Russian counterpart Friday saying Moscow isn't ready to decide anything on Ukraine until Crimea's secession vote.

Secretary of State John Kerry said his more than five hours of discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London demonstrated that Russian President Vladimir Putin "is not prepared to make any decision regarding Ukraine until after" the Crimean referendum Sunday, CNN reported.

Kerry also reiterated Russia would face consequences if it remains unwilling to resolve the Ukraine crisis diplomatically, declaring again the United States strongly supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the interim Ukrainian government in Kiev.

Another topic of discussions involved the "increased tension" resulting from the deployment of Russian forces in Crimea and near the border with eastern Ukraine. Kerry said the United States wants those troops pulled back to "reduce that kind of tension."

For its part, Lavrov said Russia would respect the result of Sunday's referendum in Crimea. He also said Russia and the West don't share common ground on how to resolve the crisis in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

"Also as to the practical measures which could be taken by foreign partners, we don't have a common vision of the situation," Lavrov said.

While Kerry did not "put forward any threats against Russia" during their meeting, Lavrov said Moscow was aware that U.S. and European governments are considering sanctions against Russia because of the Ukraine crisis.

"I assure you that our partners understand that sanctions are counterproductive ... and [they] will not facilitate mutual interests," he said.

Lavrov said he expressed concern to Kerry that necessary measures have not been carried out to ensure stability in Ukraine, and that measures have not been taken to stop what he called unlawful activities of radicals, CNN said.

Crimea's pro-Russian government scheduled a referendum Sunday in which residents of the Crimean Peninsula will vote whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia or to choose effective independence. There is no "no" option for voters.

Ukraine's interim government in Kiev, as well as U.S. and European leaders, are warning that the vote is illegitimate and won't be recognized.

The Crimea Parliament declared independence from Ukraine Tuesday, adding in its statement that if the popular vote is approved, Crimea will become independent and immediately request annexation by Russia.

Officials in Crimea, which is home port for Russia's Black Sea fleet, have refused to recognize the country's new leadership in Kiev as legitimate following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in late February after months of demonstrations protesting his decision not to sign political and trade agreements with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday Europe and the United States are united on Ukrainian sovereignty and subsequent consequences if that sovereignty is violated.

"We continue to hope there's a diplomatic solution to be found" in Ukraine, Obama told reporters during a meeting with Ireland's prime minister.

Before meeting with Lavrov, Kerry met with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague.

"We want to see Ukrainians and the Russians talking to each other. And if they don't, then there are going to have to be consequences," Cameron said.

In Kiev, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Friday the presence of Russian military forces in Ukraine has damaged infrastructure and Ukraine's military equipment, CNN said. The ministry said equipment, firearms, munitions and other property of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and military forces in Crimea had been seized illegally.

The ministry reported that 49 out of 56 facilities of the Ukrainian State Border Service were either blockaded or shuttered, and that eight Ukrainian military units in Crimea had been taken over, and 22 units were blockaded.

Vladislav Seleznev, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense in Crimea, told CNN 14 Uragan multiple rocket launch systems were seen being transported deeper into the region.

CNN also reported seeing six long-range artillery guns in a convoy in which the first vehicle had Russian license plates and the rest no plates.

In Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the regional health authority said a 22-year-old man was stabbed to death and at least 10 others were injured in clashes Thursday between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian demonstrators. Each side blamed the other for the attacks.

In Kiev, Ukrainian prosecutors opened more criminal cases against Yanukovych, including charges of unconstitutional seizure of power, extremism and money laundering, RIA Novosti reported Friday.

Acting Prosecutor General Oleh Makhnitsky said Thursday Yanukovych, who fled to Russia days following his ouster in late February, is wanted on abuse of power and murder charges arising from the violent security response to months-long, anti-government protests.

Last month, Ukraine asked Interpol to issue Red Notice, an international wanted alert, for Yanukovych.

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