John Kerry Meets Russian President On Ukraine Crisis

RussianU.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, met Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday, to probe Russia’s willingness to curb its involvement in Ukraine crisis and its backing of Syria’s President.

This was the highest-level U.S. visit to Russia since the Ukraine crisis began in the autumn of 2013.

The west accused Russia of arming rebels in eastern Ukraine and sending its troops there, a claim Moscow denied.

Kerry also met Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for over four hours before he sat with President Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

While they were expected to discuss issues including the Iran nuclear talks, Yemen and Libya, the tour seemed planned to maintain contact, given that U.S.-Russian relations are at their lowest ebb since the Cold War.

“It’s important for us to keep these lines of communication open. It’s important to try to talk to the senior decision maker.

“We have a lot of business that we could do together if there is interest,” said a senior U.S. State Department official.

President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called the visit a “positive step”, noting that the Russian President was prepared for “extensive” discussions at the meeting.

“Through dialogue, it is possible to find ways for a normalisation, closer coordination in dealing with international problems,” Peskov told reporters before the talks began. “Russia was never the initiator of this cooling of relations,” he added.

More than 6,000 people have been killed since fighting began in April 2014 between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The conflict was subsequent to Russia’s takeover of the Crimean Peninsula in Southern Ukraine.

US Says Russia Is Making Crimea Diplomacy More Difficult

State Department Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki addresses reporters.
State Department Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, addresses reporters.

The United States said on Tuesday, March 11 that Russia’s responses to U.S. proposals to end the crisis in Ukraine do not create the environment for a diplomatic resolution.

Russia’s bloodless seizure of the Crimea region of Ukraine has brought U.S.-Russian relations to one of their lowest points since the Cold War, with the United States searching for a way to keep Russia from annexing Crimea and its Russian naval base.

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry spoke to Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday morning to discuss a series of questions that Washington put to Moscow over the weekend in an effort to find a diplomatic solution, the State Department said.

“He (Kerry) also reiterated his willingness to continue to engage with Foreign Minister Lavrov, including this week, but that the environment has to be right and the goal must be to protect the immunity and sovereignty of Ukraine and we didn’t see that, obviously, in the responses that we received back,” State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki told reporters.

Psaki said that Russia gave its response to the questions on Monday (March 10).

On Monday, the State Department held out the possibility that Kerry might travel to Russia this week but that it needed to know whether Moscow would engage on a diplomatic solution.

While the spokeswoman said Kerry was still open to going to Russia before Sunday’s (March 16) planned referendum in Crimea on whether to join Russia — a poll the United States sees as illegitimate — her comments suggested such a trip was now unlikely.

Kerry told Lavrov “any further escalatory steps will make the window for diplomacy more difficult;” Psaki said, adding that he also said that “it is unacceptable that Russian forces and irregulars continue to take matters into their own hands.”