As top diplomats are seeking to find a solution to the crisis in Ukraine as they meet in Paris, France to hold high-level talks with both parties, Russia announced on Wednesday that it could not order “self defence” forces in Ukraine’s Crimea region back to their bases. With the crisis in Ukraine an on-going matter, Russia and the West are locked in the most serious confrontation since the conclusion of the Cold War.
Meeting in Paris
Russia’s Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov has confirmed that he will hold talks with his counterpart from the United States, along with key European Union states, in order to try and resolve the crisis in Ukraine.
Mr Lavrov will meet on Wednesday with US Secretary of State John Kerry and count parts from the United Kingdom, Germany and France on the side-lines of a long-planned conference on Lebanon which will be held in Paris. Speaking before meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, and other Western ministers, Russian Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov repeated Moscow’s assertion that the troops that have seized control of the Black Sea peninsula are not under Russian command. Asked whether Moscow would order forces in Crimea back to their bases, the Russian Minister indicated that “if you mean the self-defence units created by the inhabitants of Crimea, we give them no orders, they take no order from us,” adding “as for the military personnel of the Black Sea Fleet, they are in their deployment sites. Yes, additional vigilance measures were taken to safeguard the sites….We will do everything not to allow any bloodshed.”
Although the gathering in Paris is seen as a chance to test the waters for a dialogue about Ukraine, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has indicated that the Russians have already failed to appear at one meeting with Ukrainian officials in Paris and that he is “not optimistic” that any further progress will be achieved. In reference to a threat of sanctions by the US and the EU, Hague indicated that “if we cannot make progress on that course there will be costs and consequences.” Russia did not attend a meeting with Kerry, Hague and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia of the so-called Budapest group created to assure Ukraine’s security after it abandoned nuclear weapons in 1994. However both Kerry and Hague have indicated that they will try to bring the Russian and Ukrainian minister together.
NATO and Russia are also due to hold parallel talks in Brussels amidst concerns that a standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Crimea could still spark violence, or that Moscow could also intervene in the Russian-speaking eastern region of Ukraine.
The West is pushing for Russia to return troops to their barracks, to accept international monitors in Crimea and Ukraine and to negotiate a solution to the crisis through a “contact group,” which will most likely be under the auspices of a pan-European security body. Officials from France have also indicated that European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday could also decide to place sanctions against Russia if there is no “de-escalation” by then.
Last year, under great pressure from Russia, Ukraine pulled out of a trade deal with the EU. This move effectively sparked months of protests in Kiev and on 22 February 2014, Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich, a Russian ally, was ousted from power. Russia currently occupies Crimea, where it’s Black Sea Fleet is based, a move which has raised international tensions and provoked sharp falls in financial markets