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US, Russia hold last-minute Crimea talks

By Agencies in London, Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2014-03-15 08:03

'Kiev authorities do not control the situation,' Moscow says

The United States and Russia launched a round of 11th-hour diplomacy on Friday just two days before Crimea votes on seceding from Ukraine in a referendum on Saturday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in London at the US ambassador's residence. They were to discuss the situation in Ukraine, a Russian diplomatic source told ITAR-TASS News Agency.

Earlier on Friday, Lavrov met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

"This is a difficult situation we are in," Lavrov told Kerry at the start of their meeting. "Many events have happened, and a lot of time has been lost."

Kerry has warned Russia that Washington and Europe could announce a "very serious" response as early as Monday if Moscow does not pull back its troops from Crimea.

"The first thing that Secretary Kerry will say is 'Will you use your influence to buy time and space for negotiations to take place?'" one US official said ahead of the Kerry-Lavrov talks.

US, Russia hold last-minute Crimea talks

Russia, meanwhile, accused the current Ukrainian authorities on Friday of failing to control the situation in that country, saying Moscow might take Russian people there under its protection.

"We have repeatedly said that those who came to power in Kiev must disarm the militants, provide security for the population and people's legal right to hold rallies," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It referred to Thursday's events in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, where a young man was killed and several others injured when right-wing radicals clashed with a pro-Russian rally.

"As the events demonstrate, authorities in Kiev do not control the situation in the country," the ministry said.

Moscow said Russia realized its responsibility for the lives of its fellow citizens and compatriots in Ukraine.

"We reserve the right to take these people under our protection," it said.

In a separate development, addressing the chorus of criticism at the UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine, Moscow's ambassador has reconfirmed that Russia does not want any escalation of the Ukraine crisis and is not interfering with the upcoming referendum in Crimea, according to Russia Today.

"Russia does not want war, and neither do the Russians, and I'm convinced the Ukrainians don't want that either," Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said at an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Thursday. "We don't see any basis to consider the issue in such terms."

It is unacceptable to reject Crimea's right for self-determination using a smokescreen of protecting Ukraine's territorial integrity, without even trying to balance these two principles, Churkin said.

Deadly violence meanwhile returned to Ukraine for the first time since nearly 90 people were killed in a week of violence as a pro-Kiev protester was stabbed to death in the mostly Russian-speaking city of Donetsk.

The local health service said a 22-year-old man was killed and 16 people were wounded in skirmishes that erupted when pro-Moscow protesters were confronted by pro-Kiev demonstrators.


 US, Russia hold last-minute Crimea talks

Residents of Simferopol line up to withdraw money from an ATM on Friday, ahead of Sunday's Crimea referendum. Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters

(China Daily 03/15/2014 page8)

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