Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reinforced a message from President
Vladimir Putin that Russia will settle — at least for now — for
annexing Crimea, although it has thousands of troops near Ukraine's
"We have absolutely no intention of — or interest in — crossing
Ukraine's borders," Lavrov told a Russian television channel.
He added, however, that Russia was ready to protect the rights of
Russian speakers, referring to what Moscow sees as threats to the
lives of compatriots in eastern Ukraine since Moscow-backed Viktor
Yanukovich was deposed as president.
The West imposed sanctions on Russia, including visa bans for some
of Putin's inner circle, after Moscow annexed Crimea following a
referendum on union with the Russian Federation which the West said
The West has threatened tougher sanctions targeting Russia's
stuttering economy if Moscow sends more troops to Ukraine.
In a sign that Putin is ready to ease tensions in the worst
East-West standoff since the Cold War, Putin called U.S. President
Barack Obama on Friday to discuss a U.S. diplomatic proposal for
The White House said Obama told Putin that Russia must pull back its
troops and not move deeper into Ukraine.
The Kremlin said Putin had suggested "examining possible steps the
global community can take to help stabilize the situation," and said
the foreign ministers of the two countries would discuss this soon.
[to top of second column]
The U.N. General Assembly on Thursday passed a non-binding
resolution declaring invalid Crimea's Moscow-backed referendum
earlier this month on seceding from Ukraine, in a vote that Western
nations said highlighted Russia's isolation.
Both Russia and West accused each other of using threats to affect
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; editing by Timothy Heritage)
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