Russia demands Ukraine federation as Kerry, Lavrov meet on crisis in Paris

The Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before the start of their meeting at the Russian Ambassador's residence about the situation in Ukraine, in Paris Sunday March 30, 2014. Kerry traveled to Paris for a last minute meeting with Lavrov. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

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That call did little to reassure U.S. officials that Russia is not planning to invade Ukraine after its annexation of Crimea that the west has condemned as illegal and a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United States and Europe have imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials in response, sparking reciprocal moves from Moscow.

In the interview with Russian television, Lavrov called the sanctions a "dead-end" strategy that would not achieve results and accused the west of hypocrisy. He said it was inconsistent for the west to refuse to recognize Crimea's annexation, which followed a referendum on joining Russia that was overwhelmingly approved, while at the same time accepting the new government in Kiev, which was formed after the pro-Moscow president fled the country.

"If they are willing to accept the first event as legitimate, then surely they are obliged to acknowledge the second," Lavrov told Russia's Channel One television.

The two sides remain far apart, a situation underscored by the fact that the White House and the Kremlin offered starkly different summaries of the Obama-Putin call, which occurred while Obama was traveling in Saudi Arabia.

White House officials described the call as "frank and direct" and said Obama had urged Putin to offer a written response to a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine crisis that the U.S. has presented. He urged Moscow to scale back its troop buildup on the border with Ukraine, which has prompted concerns in Kiev and Washington about a possible Russian invasion in eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin, on the other hand, said Putin had drawn Obama's attention to a "rampage of extremists" in Ukraine and suggested "possible steps by the international community to help stabilize the situation" in Ukraine.

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