Ukraine crisis: John Kerry rejects Vladimir Putin talks


Viktor Yanukovych: "I will be back in Kiev"

The US secretary of state has rejected an offer of talks with President Vladimir Putin until Russia engages with US proposals on Ukraine's crisis.

John Kerry told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that Moscow's military intervention in Crimea had made any negotiations extremely difficult.

US officials say there will be little to discuss if the referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia goes ahead.

Ukraine and the West say the vote, due to be held on Sunday, is illegal.

In other developments on Tuesday:

Start Quote

The next few days are going to be critical for any diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, or at least one that comes any time soon. But it is not looking too hopeful.”

End Quote
  • At a news conference in Russia, ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych describes the new Ukrainian authorities as a "gang of fascists" and says presidential elections set for 25 May are "illegal"
  • Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk tells MPs in Kiev that Crimea's authorities are an "organised gang" backed by Russia, and urges Moscow to settle the crisis diplomatically
  • The parliament in Kiev asks the US and UK - as guarantors of the security pledges given to Ukraine in 1994 - to use all measures, including military, to stop Russia's "aggression"
  • Crimea's lawmakers adopt an "independence declaration". The document says the region will ask to join Russia if this is approved at the referendum
  • A number of flights from Crimea's main airport in Simferopol have been cancelled, amid reports that pro-Moscow militia have taken over air traffic control
  • Officials from several countries are meeting in London to discuss sanctions against Russian officials

The BBC's James Reynolds takes a look at what it is like for pro-Ukraine protesters in Simferopol

Direct dialogue plea

Russia said on Monday it was drafting counter-proposals to a US plan for a negotiated solution to the crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meets Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Sochi on 10 March 2014 Vladimir Putin was told by Sergei Lavrov that US proposals for a negotiated solution were "not suitable"
A member of a pro Russian self-defence unit (right) stands close to Russian Army soldiers outside the Ukrainian army base in Perevalnoe, Crimea Pro-Russian forces are blockading Ukrainian troops across Crimea
Men are searched by pro-Russian servicemen at Chongar checkpoint blocking the entrance from Ukraine to Crimea Russia denies its troops are taking part in the blockades, describing the armed men as "self-defence" forces
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (March 2014) Relations between Mr Kerry (left) and Mr Lavrov have been increasingly strained by the Ukraine crisis

Moscow has condemned Ukraine's new Western-backed government as an unacceptable "fait accompli" - it says that Russian-leaning parts of the country have been turned into havens of lawlessness.

Meanwhile Russian forces have strengthened their control over Crimea.

Pro-Russian troops are blockading Ukrainian troops across Crimea, which is an autonomous region.

Mark Lowen went to meet one family fleeing the lawlessness of Crimea

Moscow has officially denied that its troops are taking part in the blockades, describing the armed men with no insignia as Crimea's "self-defence" forces.

Fact box: Awacs

File photo of an Awacs plane
  • Airborne warning and control systems, or Awacs, are one of Nato's most sophisticated command and control aircraft
  • Plane is a modified Boeing 707/320B airliner
  • Contains a radar system that can detect, identify and track enemy aircraft, and direct fighters to meet them, from the ground up into the stratosphere
  • Flight crew of four plus mission crew of 13-19
  • Also used by the US, Britain and France

The government in Kiev - as well as the US and EU - accuse Russia of invading Ukraine, in violation of international law.

In a televised briefing with President Putin on Monday, Mr Lavrov said proposals made by Mr Kerry for a negotiated solution to the crisis were "not suitable" because they took "the situation created by the coup as a starting point", referring to the overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych.

Washington says that there has been no official response yet to a set of questions Mr Kerry gave Mr Lavrov at the weekend, asking in particular whether Moscow is prepared to meet officials from the new Ukrainian government.

"The United States needs to see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on the diplomatic proposals we have made to facilitate direct dialogue between Ukraine and Russia and to use international mechanisms like a contact group to deescalate the conflict," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a recent written statement.

"Kerry made clear to Foreign Minister Lavrov that he would welcome further discussions focused on how to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine if and when we see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on these proposals," she added.


Dozens of journalists travelled to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, near the Ukrainian border, to find the answers to two questions: Was Viktor Yanukovych still alive, both in fact and as a politician?

Mr Yanukovych was supposed to hold a news conference. But when all the journalists were let into the conference hall, the organisers said that no questions should be asked. There would only be a statement.

Many of my colleagues were very disappointed. They even tried to shout their questions out when Mr Yanukovych was leaving.

The ousted Ukrainian president looked confident at first. But when he was quoting the words of the Ukrainian anthem his voice suddenly wavered. And so did his confidence, it seems.

Surprisingly, the man who used to rule Ukraine did not find the words to talk about the possible breakaway of one of his country's regions, Crimea.

She said "it was conceivable" that Mr Kerry might meet Mr Lavrov prior to the planned Crimean referendum but that the secretary of state first wanted to ensure that Moscow would engage seriously on US diplomatic proposals.

Staff threatened

Meanwhile, Nato on Monday announced that it is to deploy Awacs reconnaissance planes in Poland and Romania to monitor the Ukrainian crisis.

Nato said the surveillance flights would "enhance the alliance's situational awareness".

Last week, the military alliance said it was reviewing all co-operation with Russia and stepping up its engagement with the government in Kiev.

Step-by-step, and meeting very little resistance, pro-Russian troops are dismantling Ukraine's ability to resist in Crimea, says the BBC's Christian Fraser, who is in the region.

President Putin has defended Crimea's decision to stage the referendum. "The steps taken by Crimea's legitimate authorities are based on international law," he said.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told him in a phone call that she considered the vote illegal.

Both EU leaders and the US have warned Moscow they would impose sanctions if Russian troops remained in Crimea.

Unrest in Ukraine erupted in November after former President Viktor Yanukovych's last-minute rejection of a landmark EU deal in favour of a bailout from Russia.

Mr Yanukovych was ousted last month, and a new government has been voted in by the Ukrainian parliament which Russia says was a "coup".



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  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    Why removing an elected president in Ukaine has been ok, and people who removed him has been rewarded with tons of money, and the removal of the president in Egypt was not ok; and Egypt has been punished for doing the exact thing that Ukraine did. The people of Crimea have the right to decide whatever!

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    @980 But Russia is allowed by treaty to have 25K troops there! Have the BBC forgotten to mention this?

    I forgot that this treaty included surrounding Ukrainian authorities with armed soldiers, de-arming a sovereign force of its weapons and drawing up a speedy 'democratic' vote on the entire future of the people of Crimea. I must read the small print more carefully next time

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    I really worry about and feel sorry for those young Russian and Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea. How many of them will be dead by the time it is all over? It's sad that the answer now largely depends on what happens next in the mind of just one apparently out-of-mind Russian pensioner who likes to play Rambo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    If the West thinks that the Crimea referendum will be illegal - then it surely thinks that the referendum taken on the Falklands Islands is also illegal and Britain should cede the Islands to Argentina. You can't have it both ways. Russia has more of a claim to Crimea as its territorial land mass. Britain has no such claim. Britain should be seen to be using double standards and being hypocrites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    USA diplomacy NO to TALKS what do they want a civil war? I think so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    Is it really worth starting World War III over Crimea a place where most people speak Russian and which was once part of Russia? Yes, their might be some international law / treaties being broken here, but is it really worth a global bloodbath / economic collapse if it can peacefully be absorbed into Russia once again?

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    In the news today: 1) Kharkov governor arrested for promoting decentralization and federalism 2) Ukrainian government stops russian language broadcasting in Ukraine immediately ... doesn't sound like a goverment which is ready to accept EU values in Ukraine. Why are we supporting these Ukrainian nationalists? I don't understand the EU anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    Scott: standing up to a bully who's dismembering a European democracy?

    EU itself also is dismembering multiple European democracies

    The difference is that Russia is using military
    whilst EU is using economic means

    Funny thing is Russia won't recognize Ukraine's new unelected govt
    and EU won't recognize Crimea's new elected referendum

    Crimea is voting whilst Ukraine did not vote

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    Kerry is a representative of one the most consistently warring nations on earth. Why should anyone listen to him?

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    To say Putin will seek out other countries to invade is pure nonsense.When to Baltic states were democratized, ethnic Russians born there had ALIEN stamped on their passports. Putin did not intervene.The USA and NATO are bullies now they have met a big boy ready to stand up to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    Just now

    Churchill said that 'Jaw Jaw, was better than War War'.......Surely an attempt at talks is better than no talks??


    If we were talking about responsible adults you`d be right but i suspect we`re not. Putting pre-conditions on talks just shows that peace takes a back seat to political influence.

  • Comment number 982.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    4 Minutes ago

    I'm amazed Kerry knows where Ukraine is.


    I have a funny feeling he thinks it's in the middle east; somewhere between Ayran and Ayraq!

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.


    Russia should remove it's armed forces and a neutrally observed democratic vote take place in the future....

    But Russia is allowed by treaty to have 25K troops there! Have the BBC forgotten to mention this?

    As for a vote, the West know it'll go Russia's way. That's why all sorts of fantasies have been invented to oppose it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    @952 - sorry, the Kremlin didn't "give away" areas with Russians, these people were left behind so that there would always be local Russians to be protected if need for Russia to remind upstart locals who wanted ties to the west.
    There are similar pressures right now on Moldova where Russians in Transnistria are the cause for Putin to try and pressurise Moldova from joining the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    A Russian is passing through border control in the Ukraine.

    The guard says "Name?"
    The Russian replies "Yuri"

    The guard says "Occupation?"
    The Russian says "No, just visiting"

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    I wish they'd bring back 'Spitting Image' and the fun that Fluck and Law would have with Kerry's hair and eyebrows and Putin's muscles and facial cosmetic fillers.

  • Comment number 976.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    It seems that the EU wants Ukraine for itself for whatever reason(probably just to expand the EU),the Russians want it particularly as Crimea has a warm water port and US/Cameron are just anti Russia and will do whatever they can to spoil any deal made not in their interests.
    What is important is what the people want and a referendum will resolve this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    ....unsurprising we are the last remaining species of hominids.
    Death becomes us and long live the world without us ;-)


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