Russia has no plans to invade eastern Ukraine but Moscow will respect the result of Sunday’s referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.
Speaking after six hours of crisis talks in London with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Lavrov there was still no common vision with the West over Ukraine and that Russia needed no international structure to help it mediate with Kyiv.
“We will respect the expression of the will of the Crimean people in the upcoming referendum,” Lavrov told reporters gathered for a news conference in the Russian Ambassador’s residence in London.
“The Russian Federation does not and cannot have any plans to invade the southeastern regions of Ukraine,” Lavrov said.
Kerry said Russia would be guilty of a “backdoor annexation” of Crimea if its parliament ratified a Crimea referendum, planned for Sunday.
US President Barack Obama said he is still hopeful for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Obama, meeting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office, reiterated to reporters that there would be consequences should Russia refuse to loosen its grip on Ukraine’s Crimea.