Lavrov denied that Moscow wants to “split Ukraine.”
“Federation does not mean, as some in Kiev fear, an attempt to split Ukraine,” he said. “To the contrary, federation ... answers the interests of all regions of Ukraine.”
Lavrov said he and Kerry did agree to work with the Ukrainian government to improve rights for Russian-speaking Ukrainians and disarm “irregular forces and provocateurs.”
Sunday’s meeting was hastily arranged 48 hours after U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone in a conversation in which Obama urged Putin to withdraw his troops from the border with Ukraine. Putin, 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 Crimea annexation that drew U.S. and EU sanctions, sparking reciprocal moves from Moscow.
In the interview with Russian television, Lavrov called the sanctions a “dead-end” strategy that would not achieve results and accused the West of hypocrisy. He said it was inconsistent for the west to refuse to recognize Crimea’s annexation, which followed a referendum on joining Russia that was overwhelmingly approved, while at the same time accepting the new government in Kiev, which was formed after the pro-Moscow president fled the country.
The idea for Sunday’s meeting was for Lavrov to present Russia’s responses to a U.S. proposal to de-escalate the tensions that covers Ukrainian political and constitutional reforms as well as the disarmament of irregular forces, international monitors to protect minority rights and direct dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, according to U.S. officials, who say it has backing of Ukraine’s government.