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Kerry Will Meet With Russian Foreign Minister On Sunday About Ukraine

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AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana

U.S. officials say the plan covers the disarmament of irregular forces, international monitors to protect minority rights, direct dialogue between Russia and Ukraine and Ukrainian political and constitutional reforms.

Kerry and Lavrov have met several times in person and spoken by phone almost daily since the crisis began but have not yet been able to agree on a way forward. The pair met last week in The Hague, where Kerry presented Lavrov with the proposal, which was a response to ideas Lavrov gave him at a March 10 meeting in London.

Sunday's meeting follows an hourlong phone call Friday between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Obama urged Putin to withdraw his troops from the border with Ukraine. The Russian leader, who initiated the call, asserted that Ukraine's government is allowing extremists to intimidate ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking civilians with impunity — something Ukraine insists is not happening.

That call did little to reassure U.S. officials that Russia is not planning to invade Ukraine after its annexation of the country's strategic Crimea peninsula that the west has condemned as illegal and a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Russia maintains that its troops near the border are there for military exercises and that they have no plans to invade, but U.S. and European officials say the numbers and locations of the troops suggest something more than exercises.

The White House and the Kremlin offered starkly different summaries of the Obama-Putin call, which occurred while Obama was traveling in Saudi Arabia.

The contrasting interpretations underscored the chasm between how Moscow and Washington perceive the escalating international standoff sparked by Russia's annexation of Crimea.

White House officials described the call as "frank and direct" and said Obama had urged Putin to offer a written response to a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine crisis that the U.S. has presented. He urged Moscow to scale back its troop buildup on the border with Ukraine, which has prompted concerns in Kiev and Washington about a possible Russian invasion in eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin, on the other hand, said Putin had drawn Obama's attention to a "rampage of extremists" in Ukraine and suggested "possible steps by the international community to help stabilize the situation" in Ukraine.

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