MOSCOW — Russia has absolutely no intention of ordering its armed forces to cross over the Ukrainian border and the divisions between Moscow and the West on the crisis are narrowing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday.
“We have absolutely no intention and no interests in crossing the Ukrainian border,” Lavrov told Russian state television in an interview, appearing to firmly rule out an invasion of mainland Ukraine after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea.
“We (Russia and the West) are getting closer in our positions,” he added, saying recent contacts had shown the outlines of a “possible joint initiative which could be presented to our Ukrainian colleagues,” he added.
Earlier Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested to his US counterpart Barack Obama in a phone call between the two leaders that the international community could examine joint steps to calm the situation in Ukraine, the Kremlin said Saturday.
Putin in the call also raised alarm over what he described as the “continued outbursts by extremists” in Kiev and also over the situation in the largely-Russian speaking rebel Moldovan region of Transdniestr.
The White House said earlier that Putin called Obama to discuss a US proposal on solving the crisis in Ukraine, after Russia seized the Black Sea region of Crimea and massed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.
“The Russian leader suggested examining possible steps of the international community to help stabilize the situation,” the Kremlin said, without specifying what these steps would entail.
“The concrete parameters of this joint work will be discussed” by Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry soon, the statement added.
In the call, Putin also raised concern over the situation in Transdneistr, a sliver of Moldovan territory bordering Ukraine which broke away from control of the Moldovan government in the wake of the fall of the USSR.
Putin said there was a “de-facto external blockade of Transdniestr” which was hampering the lives of its inhabitants. The self-declared statelet is recognised by no government.
But Putin appeared to suggest that the Transdniestr issue should be solved not by force but by talks in the “5+2” format of Moldova, Transdniestr, the OSCE, Russia, Ukraine plus the EU and the US as observers.
“It was emphasized that Russia is in favor of a fair and acceptable regulation of the Transdniestr problem and is interested in seeing the current 5+2 negotiating format work effectively.”
Putin also told Obama that Russia was still alarmed over the situation in Ukraine after the fall of president Viktor Yanukovych.
“There are continued outbursts by extremists, unpunished acts of intimidation,” he was quoted as saying by the Kremlin.