Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Friday said differences remain between Moscow and the US following negotiations in London aimed at ending the crisis in Ukraine, whose strategic Crimea region is voting this weekend on whether to secede.
After several hours of talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Lavrov confirmed there was “no common vision” between the two nations although he described the dialogue as “useful”.
Sunday’s vote on Crimea – Ukraine’s strategic Black Sea peninsula of 2 million people – is widely expected to back secession and, potentially, annexation with Russia. The new government in Kiev believes the vote is illegal, but Moscow says it does not recognize the new government as legitimate.
The US and EU say the Crimean vote violates Ukraine’s constitution and international law. If Crimea votes to secede, the US and European Union plan to slap sanctions as early as Monday on Russian officials and businesses accused of escalating the crisis and undermining Ukraine’s new government.
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.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said clashes on Thursday in the eastern city of Donetsk showed that Ukrainian authorities had lost control of the country and could not provide basic security.
Ukraine responded by calling the Russian statement “impressive in its cynicism”.
“(The Donetsk clashes had) a direct connection to deliberate, destructive actions of certain citizens of Russia and some Russian social organisations…’’ Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Evgeny Perebiynis said.
The UN assistant secretary-general Ivan Simonovic, told reporters Friday in Kiev that there was “no sign of human rights violations of such a proportion, of such widespread intensity that would require any military measures.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron underlined the threat of sanctions. “We want to see Ukrainians and the Russians talking to each other. And if they don’t, then there are going to have to be consequences,’’ he said.