Crisis not Russia’s fault, says Putin
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London on Friday in a last-minute attempt to persuade Russia to turn down Crimea’s plea for accession.
Russian President Vladimir Putin convened a meeting of the Kremlin Security Council to discuss Ukraine ahead of the London meeting, announced in Moscow on Thursday following Mr. Kerry’s phone call to Mr. Lavrov.
Opening the meeting, Mr. Putin said the crisis in Ukraine had broken out “not through our fault,” and it was an “internal Ukrainian crisis,” but Russia was involved in it “one way or another.”
The Russian leader asked the Security Council to discuss “how we can build relations with our partners and friends in Ukraine and with partners in Europe and the United States.”
U.S. President Barack Obama received Ukraine’s Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Washington on Wednesday, pledging to “stand with Ukraine” and warning Russia it would pay a price for its “violations of international law and its encroachments on Ukraine.”
Speaking in Congress on Wednesday, Mr. Kerry made it clear he would press Mr. Lavrov not to accept Crimea’s bid to join Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow appeared more concerned with neutralising possible threat to Crimea’s referendum on Sunday from Crimean Tatars, who are opposed to the peninsula’s split from Ukraine.
Mr. Putin invited Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming referendum.
Mr. Dzhemilev said afterwards that he had told Mr. Putin that Crimean Tatars recognised the new authorities in Kiev and would boycott the referendum. However, he promised the Russian leader not to try to disrupt the vote.
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin deported Tatars from Crimea during World War Two and they were only allowed to return shortly before the breakup of the Soviet Union.