Kerry Delays Meeting Putin On Ukraine

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Russia Shows No Sign of Backing Down to Threats of Sanctions.

Russia said Monday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry postponed a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss an American proposal on settling the dispute over Crimea, as the distance between two sides shows little sign of narrowing.

The meeting, which Russia said was supposed to happen Monday, would have been the first direct contact between the U.S. and the Russian president since Russian troops seized effective control of Crimea in late February and would have come ahead of a regionwide referendum next Sunday to decide whether Crimea will secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia.

“We suggested that he come today, I think, and we were prepared to receive him. He gave his preliminary consent. He then called me on Saturday and said he would like to postpone it for a while,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Mr. Putin in a meeting broadcast on state television.

Mr. Lavrov told Mr. Putin that a one-page proposal on settling the dispute, that Mr. Kerry had given him during a meeting in Rome last week, had been unacceptable.

“The document contains an approach which doesn’t quite suit us, as the entire wording suggests there is a conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” Mr. Lavrov said.

He said the Americans had proposed that Moscow accept the new government in Kiev that took form following the Feb. 21 ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which Russia says it is unwilling to acknowledge.

Mr. Lavrov said that Mr. Kerry had told him Washington had come up with a revised proposal which was sent over on Sunday but still fell short.

“We have studied it. To be honest, we have many questions about it,” he said.

The foreign minister told Mr. Putin that Russia has come up with counterproposals in response to Washington’s plan.

The White House said President Barack Obama would meet Ukraine’s new prime minister in Washington on Wednesday, warning that Moscow would face even more outside pressure if there are further steps toward Russia annexing Crimea.

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