Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a last minute attempt to solve the crisis between Russia and Ukraine. Nothing new occurred and the meeting ended as the others did with nothing accomplished.
Kerry once again pressured Lavrov to postpone Crimea’s referendum on Sunday. The people will decide to stay an autonomous republic of Ukraine or join the Russia Federation. Over 58% of the population are ethnic Russians and the vote is expected to go in Russia’s favor.
The US and West said the referendum is illegal and Kerry reiterated America will not recognize the votes. If the referendum passes the West will impose major sanctions against Russia and Russians who are responsible for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Kerry said that in six hours of talks he had put forward several ideas on how to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and address Russian concerns, too, but that Lavrov made clear Putin would not take any decisions until after Sunday’s vote.
Lavrov on Friday reaffirmed that Russia will “respect the results of the referendum” in Crimea and said sanctions would harm relations.
“Our partners also realize that sanctions are counterproductive,” he said.
Kerry encouraged Lavrov to push for diplomatic talks between Ukraine and Russia. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made it clear many times Russia will not hold talks because they view the new government in Kyiv as illegitimate. He also said Russia should allow people from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the situation. These people have been turned away at checkpoints on the Crimean border and on one occasion gunmen fired two warning shots at them. Lavrov said no “common vision” between the two sides.
Lavrov, speaking at a press conference after the talks, did not immediately embrace the OSCE proposal. “There is no need for an international structure in dealing with Russian-Ukrainian relations,” Lavrov said.
Ukraine interim President Oleksandr Turchynov told reporters the Ukrainian army and new national guard are prepared for a Russian invasion. Russia already controls Crimea and since they expect Crimea to vote to join Russia eyes are focused on the east. Russia moved over 200,000 troops to the Ukraine border and engaged in military exercises. Moscow said it was to familiarize the soldiers with unfamiliar land, but Turchynov wants to be prepared.
Besides Crimea, the east is a hot spot for pro-Russians. The east identifies more with Russia and there have been many violent clashes between pro-Russians and pro-Ukrainians. On Thursday night, pro-Ukrainians were attacked by pro-Russians at Lenin Square in Donetsk. Two people were killed and 11 were injured.