- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Russia, West try to build diplomatic solution to Ukraine as Crimea tensions flare

PARIS (AP) - The United States and Western diplomats failed to bring Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers together Wednesday for face-to-face talks on the confrontation in Crimea, even as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced optimism that an exit strategy was possible. “I’d rather be where we are today than where we were yesterday,” he said.

The flurry of diplomatic activity came as NATO punished Russia by suspending military cooperation, and the European Union extended $15 billion in aid to Ukraine, matching the amount the country’s fugitive president accepted from Moscow to turn his back on an EU trade accord.

After an intense round of diplomacy with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and several European counterparts in Paris, Kerry said the meetings were “very constructive, without promising something that is not defined yet, without raising hopes that are inappropriate to raise.”

“I want to be realistic. This is hard, tough stuff, and a very serious moment,” Kerry said. “I personally feel that I have something concrete to take back and talk to President Obama about,” he added, without specifying what that was.

Speaking separately after what he called “a very long day” of discussions on Ukraine, Lavrov said the sides agreed to continue talks in coming days “about how we can help in efforts to normalize the situation and overcome the crisis.”

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AP Interview: Tymoshenko says West must force Russia to withdraw troops from Ukraine’s Crimea

KIEV, Ukraine(AP) - Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former prime minister, urged the West on Wednesday to ramp up pressure on Russia to force it to withdraw troops from Crimea.

In an interview with The Associated Press two weeks after she was released from jail, Tymoshenko, 53, said the United States and Britain must engage directly with Russia and use “the most powerful tools” to ensure that Russian troops leave the Crimean Peninsula, which they have been occupying for nearly a week after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Tymoshenko said that as the signatories of a 1994 treaty, which guarantees Ukraine’s security in exchange for it giving up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Britain must now deal directly with Russia. She said Ukraine cannot enter any negotiations with Moscow while Russian troops are pointing guns at its soldiers.

“It is up to them (the U.S. and the UK) to choose the methods to stop the aggressor. But they must do it immediately,” Tymoshenko said at her office in downtown Kiev. The West must do “everything that will stop the aggressor. Period.”

Tymoshenko spent two-and-a-half years in jail on charges of abuse of office that the West condemned as politically motivated.

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Israel says naval raid seizes Iranian shipment of advanced rockets bound for Gaza militants

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