NY PostRussia may invade Ukraine or neighboring Moldova
By S.A. Miller
March 31, 2014 | 2:24am
Moscow showed no sign of backing down Sunday as Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov huddled in Paris in an effort to broker a deal that would diffuse tensions over Ukraine.
As he entered the meeting at the Russian ambassador’s residence in Paris, Lavrov quipped to reporters in English, “Good night and good luck.”
The cryptic comment, apparently borrowed from the nightly sign-off of legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, only heightened intrigue surrounding the meeting.
Russian troops continued to mass on Ukraine’s eastern border and fear persisted that Moscow would invade Ukraine or move into the pro-Russian region of neighboring Moldova.
At least 40,000 Russian troops were on Ukraine’s border, according to US officials.
Earlier, Russia laid down its tough demands for ending the crisis arising from the annexation of Crimea, demanding more autonomy for pro-Russian regions in the east and south of Ukraine.
“We can’t see any other way to ensure the stable development of Ukraine but to sign a federal agreement,” Lavrov said on Russian TV before the meeting.
He said the United States was open to the idea, but US officials have not commented on it. Lavrov downplayed the impact of sanctions, calling them a “dead-end” strategy that would not achieve results desired by the West.
Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin was prepared for another land grab.
“He is absolutely not looking for a way out,” Rogers (R-Mich.) said on “Fox News Sunday.”
He said Putin likely wants to establish a land bridge between Crimea and Moldova’s pro-Russian Transnistria region.
“You see all the Russian movement along the border and you see Russian covert influence operations, meaning they have their intelligence officials and their special forces inside Ukraine trying to foment this notion that the Russians should come in,” he said.
Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul also said Putin has designs on Moldova.
“He’s going to make it an issue that we are going to now have to negotiate,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that the US would be negotiating from a “weak position.”
Lavrov rebuffed allegations that Russia was preparing an invasion. “We have absolutely no intention of, or interest in, crossing Ukraine’s borders,” Lavrov said on Russian TV.
Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak declared that his country would not withdrawal from Crimea, which it annexed March 21 after a landslide Crimean vote to rejoin Russia.
“Crimea is a part of Russian Federation,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
He pushed back at President Obama for calling Russia a “regional power.”
“If you consider Russia a regional power, look at the region we are in, from Europe to Asia,” he said.