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  • 31 March 2014, 10:43

Ukraine: US-Russia Talks Fail To Break Deadlock

The US and Russia have agreed to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, but Washington has reiterated it still considers Moscow's actions in Crimea "illegal and illegitimate".

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov discussed ways of reducing tensions in the dispute during four hours of talks in Paris.

Russia's annexation of Crimea in southern Ukraine following the removal of the country's pro-Russian president has sparked the biggest crisis in relations between East and West since the end of the Cold War.

Mr Kerry told a news conference both sides suggested "ways to de-escalate the security and political situation in and around Ukraine", adding he raised strong concerns with Mr Lavrov over the presence of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.

This created a climate of fear and intimidation which did not help solve the crisis, he said, and called on Moscow to remove the forces.

"The question is not one of right or legality," Mr Kerry said. "The question is one of strategic appropriateness and whether it's smart at this moment of time to have troops massed on the border."

The pair agreed the new Ukrainian government has to be a part of the solution.

"Neither Russia, nor the United States, nor anyone else can impose any specific plans on Ukrainians," Mr Lavrov told a separate briefing, according to the Russian news agencyRIA.

Mr Kerry said: "The United States is consulting with Ukraine at every step of this process and we will not accept a path forward where a legitimate government of Ukraine is not at the table."

He said the bottom line is: "No decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine."

Officials said Mr Kerry put forward a number of ideas on troop withdrawals and Mr Lavrov told him he would present the proposals to the Kremlin.

At a separate news conference Mr Lavrov did not mention the troop issue, instead making the case for Russia's idea of Ukraine as a federalised nation with regions enjoying wide autonomy.

He added Ukraine cannot function as a "unified state" and said every time Ukraine has elected a new president, the country has drawn up a new constitution, which proves that "the model of a unified state doesn't work".

Mr Kerry said the idea of a federation had not been discussed "because it would have been inappropriate to do so without Ukrainian input".

Mr Lavrov denied suggestions Russia wants to "split Ukraine".

He said: "Federation does not mean, as some in Kiev fear, an attempt to split Ukraine. To the contrary, federation ... answers the interests of all regions of Ukraine."

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