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    Monday, March 31, 2014

    Ukraine crisis: US-Russia deadlock despite 'frank' talks

    US Secretary of State John Kerry has announced no breakthrough on Ukraine, following four hours of “frank” talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

    Mr Kerry said he told Mr Lavrov that the US still considered Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region to be “illegal and illegitimate”.

    He said he had stressed that no decision on Ukraine’s future could be made without Kiev’s involvement.

    Earlier Mr Lavrov set out demands for a neutral and federal Ukraine.

    Mr Kerry told a news conference in Paris: “We will not accept a path forward where the legitimate government of Ukraine is not at the table.

    “This principle is clear: no decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

    He said he had also raised “strong concerns” about the presence of Russian troops on the Ukraine border, which he said created a climate of fear and intimidation.

    Mr Lavrov has categorically denied any plans for an invasion.

    At a separate briefing, the Russian foreign minister said he and Mr Kerry agreed to work with the Ukrainian government to improve rights for Russian-speaking Ukrainians and disarm “irregular forces and provocateurs”.

    Moscow claims that “fascists” have taken power in Ukraine, jeopardising the safety of Russian speakers.

    Mr Lavrov told Russian state TV before the crisis talks on Sunday that Ukraine should come up with a new constitution “providing for a federal structure” and neutrality.

    The Ukrainian foreign ministry said it deeply regretted Mr Lavrov’s “patronising” remarks, describing them as an attempt to break up the country.

    The Kerry-Lavrov meeting was hastily arranged after President Vladimir Putin spoke to President Barack Obama by phone late on Friday.

    Mr Kerry stressed the need for a “diplomatic solution” to the crisis at his latest news conference.

    “The US and Russia have differences of opinion on the events that led to this crisis – but both of us recognise the importance of finding a diplomatic solution,” he said.

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