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Kerry Meets With Lavrov on Ukraine, Urges Troop Pullback

Kerry Meets With Lavrov on Ukraine, Urges

Paris – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks on Sunday about ways to defuse the crisis over Ukraine, with Kerry telling Moscow that progress depended on a Russian troop pullback from Ukraine’s borders. “Both sides made suggestions of ways to de-escalate the security and political situation in and around Ukraine,” Kerry told a news conference late on Sunday after meeting with Lavrov for four hours in Paris.

“Any real progress in Ukraine must include a pullback of the very large Russian force that is currently massing along Ukraine’s borders,” Kerry said. “We believe these forces are creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine. It certainly does not create the climate that we need.”

The two were seeking to hammer out the framework of a deal to reduce tensions over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. The Russian move into Crimea, following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russia president in February, has sparked the worst East-West confrontation since the Cold War ended two decades ago.

While there were no outlines of an agreement, the two sides agreed to keep talking and both said the Ukrainian government had to be part of the solution. “Neither Russia, nor the United States, nor anyone else can impose any specific plans on Ukrainians,” Lavrov told a separate briefing as quoted by the RIA news agency.

Washington is adamant that there could be “no decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine,” Kerry told reporters, adding the United States saw its role as creating conditions for negotiations between Moscow and Kiev. Kerry made clear that Washington still considered Russian actions in Crimea to be “illegal and illegitimate.”

The United States and European Union have issued two rounds of sanctions on Russia, including visa bans and asset freezes on some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, to punish Moscow over its seizure of Crimea, a Russian-majority Black Sea peninsula. (Reuters)

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