LONDON, March 14 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has no plans of a military action in southeastern Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday after talks with his US counterpart in London.
“Russia does not and cannot have any plans to invade southeastern Ukraine. There are no reasons that prevent us from showing transparency [on the Ukrainian issue],” he said.
Commenting on his five-hour talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Lavrov described the meeting as “productive,” but said that disagreements between Moscow and Washington persist.
The Russian foreign minister said Kerry “made no threats to Russia” during the talks, because Western partners are aware that sanctions against Russia would be counter-productive.
“As far as prospective sanctions are concerned… I assure you that our partners are fully aware that sanctions are a counter-productive measure. They will not benefit our mutual business interests or the development of our partnership in general,” he said.
Kerry, who described talks with Lavrov as frank, fair and constructive, said that his Russian counterpart "made it clear that President Putin is not prepared to make any decision regarding Ukraine until after the referendum on Sunday."
He warned Russia of "very serious steps" if it goes ahead with its "back-door annexation" of Crimea, an autonomous Ukrainian region with a narrow ethnic Russian majority.
"Our position on the referendum is clear. We believe the referendum is contrary to the constitution of Ukraine," the US top diplomat said.
Lavrov said that Russia sees no reason for setting up an international contact group for negotiations with Kiev, because Moscow was not to blame for the current Ukrainian crisis.
“We don’t need an international structure of this type to consider Russian-Ukrainian relations,” he said. “Our relationship has never been interrupted.”
He said that diplomats of the two states maintain regular contacts, so “any issues can be raised in direct dialogue."
Russia and the West have reached a standoff over the fate of Crimea, which has refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new central government in Kiev following last month’s revolution.
The Crimean parliament declared independence Tuesday ahead of a popular vote Sunday on seceding from Ukraine and becoming part of Russia.
Authorities in Kiev and international leaders have condemned the referendum as illegitimate and accused Moscow of fomenting unrest in order to annex Crimea.
Updates with more quotes from Lavrov, Kerry