Russia and the West do not share a common view of the situation in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in London on Friday, just two days ahead of a referendum in Crimea.
"We have no common vision of the situation. Differences remain," said Lavrov after the longer-than-expected talks, just two days before the Ukrainian region of Crimea holds a weekend referendum.
Lavrov said Russia would "respect the will of the Crimean people" in the referendum result, which is expected to see Crimeans vote to rejoin Russia rather than remain a semi-autonomous part of Ukraine.
The United States and Europe have said the Crimea vote would be illegitimate, with France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius calling it "illegal".
Kerry reiterated at a press conference following his meeting with Lavrov that the West would not recognise the results of the referendum.
"Neither we, nor the international community, will recognise the results of this referendum," Kerry said, adding that "there will be some sanctions, there will be some response" if the referendum goes ahead as planned.
The Black Sea region of two million mostly Russian speakers has been occupied by Russian troops for more than two weeks.
Kerry has warned Russia that Washington and Europe would initiate a "very serious" reaction to the vote as early as Monday if Moscow does not pull back the troops that seized control of Crimea just days after the pro-Kremlin regime fell in Kiev last month.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told a press briefing hours later that Russia's unwavering stance was "regrettable".
"We have obviously not gotten to a situation where Russia has chosen to de-escalate, where Russia has chosen a path of resolving the situation peacefully and through diplomacy. That is regrettable. We will have to see how the next several days unfold," he said.
Lavrov said that Russia had no plans for a further incursion into southern Ukraine. "Russia has no, and cannot have, any plans to invade the southeast region of Ukraine," he said.
But Kerry remained sceptical. "We would like to see actions and not words that [Russia] is diminishing its presence in Ukraine," the top US diplomat said.
Kerry entered the talks with his counterpart hoping to secure a Russian agreement on delaying the vote until a diplomatic solution could be hammered out.
"The first thing that Secretary Kerry will say is, 'Will you use your influence to buy time and space for negotiations to take place?'," one US official said ahead of the discussions.
Russia refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the pro-Western government that took power in Kiev after Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich fled the capital on February 22 following months of protests against his regime.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-03-14