Kerry, Lavrov agree to work toward diplomatic solution to Ukraine crisis

PARIS — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday night the United States and Russia agree on the need for a diplomatic solution for Ukraine but he stressed the Russian troop buildup along the border is not helpful.

Kerry stressed that Ukraine would have to be at the table for negotiations. And he said the Russian troop buildup along the border is creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine.

He noted that even though the troops are still on Russian soil, they create a negative atmosphere.

“The question is not one of right or legality,” he said. “The question is one of strategic appropriateness and whether it’s smart at this moment of time to have troops massed on the border.”

Kerry said Ukraine must make the decision about a Russian proposal of federalization of Ukraine.

“It is not up to us to make any decision or agreement regarding federalization. It is up to Ukrainians.”

Kerry made the comments after a lengthy meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the residence of the Russian ambassador to France to go over Moscow’s response to a U.S. plan to de-escalate the situation.

– Russia’s foreign minister says Ukraine can’t function as a “unified state” and should be a loose federation of regions that choose their own economic model, language and religion.

Lavrov said at a separate briefing that he and Kerry discussed the possibility of a federated Ukrainian state at “very, very constructive” talks.

He said he and Kerry agreed to work with the Ukrainian government to improve rights for Russian-speaking Ukrainians and disarming “irregular forces and provocateurs.”

The talks are part of broader diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis in Ukraine after protests drove out a pro-Russian president and Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in response.

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