US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are scheduled to meet in Paris to once again try to end the Ukraine-Russia situation diplomatically. The meeting will take place at 6:30 PM Paris time.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama Friday, and both agreed to the meeting. In the call, Obama pressured Putin to pull back the troops on the Ukrainian border.
Kerry will suggest more international monitors in Ukraine and try to convince Moscow to hold talks with the new government in Kyiv. However, since Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown, leaders in Moscow have repeatedly said they would not talk with the new government until a real leader emerges.
Lavrov and Kerry have been in constant communication since Yanukovych was ousted on February 22 and Russia invaded Crimea. On March 16, Crimeans voted to join Russia and leave Ukraine, and after Putin signed the annexation into law, Obama passed sanctions against Putin’s inner circle and his preferred bank. Lavrov insisted the sanctions will not work. Kerry plans on reminding Lavrov the US will pass more sanctions against Russia but this time will target their profitable gas and energy sector.
In an interview with Russian media, Lavrov said Russia will not invade east Ukraine. However, US officials do not believe the statement because of the troop buildup on the border. Anonymous sources told FOX News there are between 30,000 and 100,000 Russian troops there and for two weeks in a row have said an invasion more than likely would happen. As of Sunday there has not been an invasion nor a threat of one.
In the same interview, Lavrov repeated statements made by other Russian officials that raised flags with other nations. He said that “Moscow wanted greater autonomy for southern and eastern parts of Ukraine where many ethnic Russians live.” This is the exact same argument Moscow used to justify aggression in Crimea. Russia’s ambassador to Latvia said Russia is ready to provide Russian citizenship to Russian speakers in the country, and a diplomat at the United Nations expressed concern over treatment of Russian speakers in Estonia. All of these statements have not eased Western nations’ concerns or convinced them Russia will not invade Ukraine or the Baltic states.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the NATO foreign ministers will meet in Brussels. NATO has warned Russia many times about its troops, but Moscow said they are in compliance with all international laws and contracts.