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Dhaka Tribune

Diplomatic push for Ukraine solution

Update : 30 Mar 2014, 07:07 AM

US Secretary of State John Kerry has diverted his homebound flight at the last minute, for hastily arranged dialogues on the Ukraine crisis with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The decision came after President Vladimir Putin spoke to President Barack Obama over phone late on Friday, reported BBC Online.

Obama has urged Russia to pull its troops back from Ukraine’s border.

Lavrov told Russian TV on Saturday that Moscow had no intention of sending troops into Ukraine.

Several thousand Russian soldiers are reported to have been stationed near Ukraine's eastern borders.

The two foreign ministers are due to meet in Paris on Sunday evening.

Reports say Mr Kerry was flying home from the Middle East on Saturday when he abruptly changed travel plans and instructed the plane's crew to fly to France.

There were festivities in the Crimean capital Simferopol late on Saturday when the clocks were moved forward two hours at 22:00 (20:00 GMT) local time to align with Moscow time.

However, representatives of the peninsula’s Tatar minority, who largely opposed Russia’s annexation, voted in favour of “ethnic and territorial autonomy”.

The delegates at a congress convened in the town of Bakhchisaray left open the form this autonomy would take and how it would be achieved.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's interim authorities have been pressing ahead with plans for elections due on 25 May.

Boxer and leading political figure Vitaly Klitschko pulled out of the race for president on Saturday, declaring his support for billionaire chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko.

“The only chance of winning is to nominate one candidate from the democratic forces,” he told supporters of his Udar (Punch) party.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was freed from jail when Viktor Yanukovych was ousted as president last month, has also said she will stand.

After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, pro-Russian forces moved in to take control of the Crimean peninsula. Moscow then annexed the Ukrainian region after a referendum condemned as illegal by Kiev and the UN General Assembly.

In an interview with state TV channel Rossiya 1 on Saturday, Lavrov said: “We have absolutely no intention of - or interest in - crossing Ukraine’s borders.”

He added that Russia was ready to protect “the rights of Russians and Russian-speaking people in Ukraine, using all available political, diplomatic and legal means”.

After the interview was broadcast, it emerged Lavrov had spoken by phone to Mr Kerry, in a conversation that Russian officials said was initiated by the US.

That call followed an hour-long phone discussion late on Friday between the US and Russian presidents. Mr Putin had contacted President Obama, according to US officials.

The White House said in a statement that the US was keen to de-escalate the crisis.


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