Russia has 'no intention' of sending troops into Ukraine, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says
Updated 9 hours 33 minutes ago
Russia has "absolutely no intention" of ordering its armed forces to cross over the Ukrainian border, Russia's foreign minister says, signalling Moscow wants to ease tensions in the worst East-West standoff since the Cold war.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reinforced a message from President Vladimir Putin that Russia will settle - at least for now - for annexing Crimea, although it has thousands of troops near Ukraine's eastern border.
"We have absolutely no intention of - or interest in - crossing Ukraine's borders," Mr Lavrov told a Russian television channel.
He added, however, that Russia was ready to protect the rights of Russian speakers, referring to what Moscow sees as threats to the lives of compatriots in eastern Ukraine since Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovych was deposed as president.
The West imposed sanctions on Russia, including visa bans for some of Mr Putin's inner circle, after Moscow annexed Crimea following a referendum on union with the Russian Federation which the West said was illegal.
The West has threatened tougher sanctions targeting Russia's stuttering economy if Moscow sends more troops to Ukraine.
In a sign that Mr Putin is ready to ease tensions in the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War, Mr Putin called US president Barack Obama on Friday to discuss a US diplomatic proposal for Ukraine.
The White House said Mr Obama told Mr Putin that Russia must pull back its troops and not move deeper into Ukraine.
The Kremlin said Mr Putin had suggested "examining possible steps the global community can take to help stabilise the situation", and said the foreign ministers of the two countries would discuss this soon.
The UN General Assembly on Thursday passed a non-binding resolution declaring invalid Crimea's Moscow-backed referendum earlier this month on seceding from Ukraine, in a vote that Western nations said highlighted Russia's isolation.
Russia and the West accused each other of using threats to affect the vote.