Ukraine updates: Kerry turns down Putin meeting, Russians control more bases
By End the Lie
Secretary of State John Kerry said he would not meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin until he accepts U.S. proposals to tackle the situation in Ukraine as Russian forces took more bases in the region.
A meeting between Kerry and Putin could have been held as early as Monday, but it has been indefinitely proposed until there is “concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage” the American proposals, State Department Jen Psaki said, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Any negotiations between Moscow and Washington are going to be incredibly difficult due to the Russian actions in Crimea, Kerry said to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to the BBC.
There will be even less to discuss if the Crimean referendum scheduled for Sunday moves forward.
The referendum, which the Ukraine and Western countries say is illegal, could join the region to Russia. The U.S. has been especially strong in their negative responses to the possibility.
The U.S. continues to push Moscow to remove troops from the region of Crimea and is calling for the Russian government to recognize the new government in Ukraine.
However, the Russian government continues to reject the current Ukrainian government and has continued to take bases in Crimea.
The New York Times reported that Russian forces seized a naval missile base in Chornomorskoye, Ukraine, early Monday without firing a single shot, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and people familiar with the raid.
Russian forces also reportedly “infiltrated an air base at Novofedorivka and took up position along a runway; took over a military hospital in the regional capital, Simferopol; and moved onto a Ukrainian base used by a motorized battalion in Bakhchysaray,” according to the Times.
The seizures have “brought U.S.-Russian relations to one of their lowest points since the Cold War,” according to Reuters.
In addition to seeing evidence that Russia is ready to engage on U.S. diplomatic proposals to “facilitate direct dialogue between Ukraine and Russia,” Psaki said the U.S. is calling on Moscow to use international bodies to deescalate the conflict.
Psaki told reporters that Kerry might meet with Lavrov before the planned referendum, but he still wanted to make sure Moscow would work on a diplomatic solution to the situation.
A U.S. official said that the U.S. has given Lavrov a series of questions to see if Russia is willing to stop the military advance, deescalate the crisis and cease the moves in the Russian Duma toward annexing Crimea.
The questions, which took up about a page and a half of paper, have yet to receive a response by the Russian government.
President Barack Obama discussed the Ukraine situation with Chinese President Xi Jinping by telephone on Sunday. While the White House provided few details of the discussion, they reportedly focused on a peaceful solution to Russian action in Crimea.
The White House said the two agreed on the “importance of upholding principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, both in the context of Ukraine and also for the broader functioning of the international system.”
Obama also spoke to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, according to the White House.
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