To discuss proposals for resolving Ukraine crisis
Russia has invited U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to come to Moscow to discuss counter-plans the two sides have drawn up for resolving the Ukraine crisis.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his U.S. counterpart was expected to arrive on Monday but put off the trip to prepare new proposals for Moscow.
It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Kerry delayed his Russia visit to discuss the crisis with Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who flew to Washington on Monday for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.
Mr. Lavrov said he had received the U.S. plan on Sunday and had prepared a Russian reply.
“Our counter-proposals are aimed at bringing the situation [in Ukraine] into the framework of international law taking into account the interests of all Ukrainians in the deep state crisis in that country,” Mr. Lavrov said, at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin to discuss the Russian proposals before sending them to Washington.
Mr. Lavrov flew to Sochi to meet Mr. Putin who is attending the Winter Paralympic Games.
Mr. Lavrov said he was not happy with an earlier plan Mr. Kerry had sent him on Friday because it was based on the assumption that “there is a conflict between Russia and Ukraine and there are facts on the ground that should be accepted.”
Russia considers the new authorities in Ukraine illegitimate, saying they came to power through a coup.
U.S. officials said they were anxious to hammer out some agreement with Russia before a March 16 referendum in Crimea on its accession to Russia that could become a point of no return.
“It’s not a done deal,” U.S. deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told CNN on Sunday. “I think the door is clearly open to resolving this diplomatically.”
He warned that the U.S. will not recognise the referendum results if it leads to Crimea’s split from Ukraine. Crimea’s authorities plan to ask voters to choose between joining Russia and staying with Ukraine with greater self-rule powers.
Ukraine’s Interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said on Monday that if Crimea’s leaders “want more rights and authority, then we are ready to do this.” Crimea said Russia had already started giving financial aid to the rebellious region even as Kiev blocked its accounts.
“We have enough money to conduct the referendum and pay pensions and salaries,” said Crimea’s Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temigraliyev.