MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russia supports the idea of sending a European observer mission to Ukraine, presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said on Tuesday.
He said the idea is widely discussed within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“We are generally positive about this idea. However, this mission should work not only in southeastern Ukraine, but in other regions too,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also voiced his support for the initiative in a phone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday.
“The minister paid particular attention to the necessity of preventing provocations by ultranationalist and radical forces against Russian speakers and our compatriots in southeastern Ukraine and other regions,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“To that end, OSCE or Council of Europe observers may be deployed, on the condition that their mandate is impartial and locations and terms of their deployment are clearly agreed,” the statement continues.
Tuesday’s meeting of an OSCE preparatory committee charged with drafting an agreement on the issue ended without any results.
The US envoy to OSCE, Daniel Baer, said the Russian delegation had requested a timeout to receive additional instructions from Moscow and the talks will resume at 13:00 Moscow time [9:00 a.m. GMT] on Wednesday.
Russian diplomats present at the meeting refused to comment on the ongoing negotiations.
A previous OSCE mission, invited by the central government in Kiev, has tried to enter the Black Sea region of Crimea at least three times in early March, but was denied entry. Warning shots were fired on one occasion.
Crimea is at the center of the most serious geopolitical showdown between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.
Crimean authorities, who refused to recognize the new pro-Western government in Kiev, have signed a reunification treaty with Russia on Tuesday, two days after a popular vote showed overwhelming support for the move.
A number of Western powers imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials in the wake of the referendum, which they deem unconstitutional.
The United States and the European Union said on Monday they had compiled lists of Russian officials involved in the Crimean affair, who are subject to asset freezes and travel bans.
The United Kingdom and Canada announced on Tuesday they had suspended military cooperation with Russia in reaction to the situation in Ukraine.
Ushakov said Western sanctions can be treated only with “irony and sarcasm.”
The presidential aide did not comment on whether Russia was considering any retaliatory measures, but the Russian Foreign Ministry said that “the US and EU sanctions are absolutely inadmissible and won’t be left unanswered.”