Ukraine crisis: Space for US-Russia diplomacy narrows

A Ukrainian soldier mans a checkpoint near the village of Salkovo, near the Ukrainian border with the Crimean region It looks as if the diplomatic effort to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis has hit the buffers

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.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has refused to meet President Putin of Russia until he gets certain assurances from Moscow.

The US is warning that if plans go ahead for a referendum on the future of Crimea it closes the space for diplomacy.

So there is a pretty narrow window for anything to happen.

Tension de-escalation

The US and Russia both say President Putin offered to meet Mr Kerry - but the White House decided the meeting should not go ahead until Moscow made its position clear on a number of vital issues.

A man pastes a poster advertising the referendum in Crimea that reads "Together with Russia! March 16 - Referendum!" in Simferopol, Ukraine As referendum posters appear all over Crimea urging voters to join Russia, the US has warned that if the poll on Sunday goes ahead, the space for diplomacy would be significantly narrowed
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome (6 March 2014) Mr Kerry (right) has handed his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov a briefing paper that says that any solution to the crisis must respect Ukraine's territorial integrity

They amount to a demand Russia acknowledges the Western view of the crisis and adapts its behaviour accordingly. President Putin has a habit of poking fun at visiting politicians he disagrees with, and President Obama, who has suffered some of the treatment himself, clearly did not want to expose the earnest and enthusiastic Mr Kerry to such treatment.

Mr Kerry handed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a paper one-and-a-half pages long which stated that any solution must respect Ukraine's territorial integrity.

It then asked whether Russia would use its influence on the Duma (parliament) and the paramilitaries to de-escalate the situation and work against a referendum.

It also asked whether Russia would engage with a contact group to help Russian troops return to barracks, support Ukraine's election in May and investigate acts of violence.

You can guess the answer to these questions might be "no".

There has been no official response but the Kremlin has quoted the foreign minister as saying the document raises many questions on their side and the US has in effect accepted a coup d'etat against President Yanukovych as a starting point.

US officials say the ball is now in Moscow's court - and if the referendum planned for Sunday goes ahead that would not only severely close the space for diplomacy but would also ensure that sanctions can and will be escalated.

But the Russians say they have proposals of their own. This at least keeps the ball in the air - but the cut-off point seems to be the referendum.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    No it is not my view of the UK Tim.

    For the simple reason neither BNP or EDL control key positions within the UK Gov't, or its agencies such as Defence, Intelligence, Internal Security and Police.

    And nor do BNP or EDL have the blessings and support of the U.S and EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    "Which ever way you view it Russia will likely win the vote for Crimea this Sunday. Even though it may not be recognised by others Russia will not care as its a democratic choice."

    There's nothing democratic about a referendum at gunpoint.

    Putin should get a grip on reality. If the whole world says you're wrong, chances are you're wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    @136 BobTheCrate:

    The extreme right-wing groups in Ukraine are a small minority. If their existence and activity makes Ukraine a 'fascist' country, then the existence and activities of the BNP and EDL make the UK a fascist country too.

    Is that your view of the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    People still seem to hate Russia more than they hate self acknowledged Nazis who are now consolidating the power they seized in Europe's 2nd largest geographical country.

    And with the blessings of both the U.S and EU.

    This is 2014. You couldn't make it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Ironically, Putin appears more like a Soviet leader than Gorbachev ever did...

    It was inevitable that Russia would rise again after the collapse of the USSR. Putin's plan seems to have been: fix the broken economy first (pretty much done) then go back to the old Soviet foreign policy.

    Soon we'll all be living in the Second Cold War. Renewing Trident is feeling like a better idea all the time...


Comments 5 of 139



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