Talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry have failed to resolve differences over Crimea. But Lavrov said Russia is not planning an invasion.
Speaking after several hours of talks with his US counterpart John Kerry at the residency of the Russian Ambassador to London, Lavrov (pictured l.) said the United States and Russia were still far apart on the situation in Ukraine.
"We have no common vision of the situation. Differences remain," Lavrov said, adding that the talks were, however, still "definitely constructive."
The last-ditch meeting was aimed at defusing the situation in Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, where Russian troops promptly seized control after the recent ouster of Ukraine's pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych.
Kerry has warned Russia that Washington and Europe could respond "very seriously" to Russia for its actions in Ukraine, but Lavrov warned the West against imposing the implied sanctions, whether diplomatic or economic.
"Our partners understand that sanctions are a counterproductive instrument ... It certainly won't facilitate the mutual interests of business," Lavrov said.
Kerry, for his part, said he had discussed with Lavrov concerns over Russian military exercises on the Ukraine border and the increased anxiety they had caused within Ukraine.
He said it was vital for Russia to make the meaning of this troop deployment clear.
The talks come just two days before the Crimea holds a referendum on whether to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The vote gives Crimean citizens only two choices: joining Russia or "significantly strengthening their autonomy within Ukraine."
The region is largely expected to vote in favor of joining Russia.
Speaking of the vote, Lavrov said Moscow would respect the will of the Crimean people, while asserting that Crimea meant more to Russia than the Falklands did to Britain.
In 1982, Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, a territory currently under British control but which both nations claim as their own.
However, Lavrov told reporters that Moscow had no plans to invade southeastern Ukraine.
'No international recognition'
Kerry said that the US and the international community would not recognize the outcome of the vote in Crimea, and that the interim government in Kyiv needed to approve it for it to be legitimate.
The UN Security Council will convene on Saturday to discuss and vote on a US-drafted resolution declaring the Crimea referendum invalid. The motion is likely to be vetoed by Russia, one of the five permanent members of the Council.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday rejected Western accusations that the Crimea vote would be illegal.
He told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a telephone conversation that the referendum "fully corresponds to the norms of international law and the UN Charter."
Ukraine remains in crisis, with more than 8,000 Russian troops staging drills near its eastern border, while NATO and US reconnaissance aircraft and fighters fly patrols over the country's EU neighbors to the west.
Russia has not recognized the interim government that took over in Kyiv after Yanukovych was deposed in the last week of February.
Yanukovych stopped plans to sign an Association Agreement with the EU late last year in favor of closer ties to Russia; nearly 90 people died during the ensuing protests against his government.
tj/msh (AFP, dpa)