The United States told Russia on Sunday that it would not accept the results of Crimea's referendum on seceding from Ukraine and it continued to urge a political resolution on Moscow, a senior U.S. State Department official said.
The official, describing a telephone conversation between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday morning, the day of the Crimean vote, urged Russia to back constitutional reform in Ukraine that would protect the rights of minorities such as Crimea's Russian-speaking population.
Kerry also said Russia must pull back its forces to their bases and raised strong concerns about Russian military activities in Ukraine's Kherson Oblast on Saturday, as well as continuing provocations in eastern Ukraine, the official said.
In their Sunday phone conversation, Kerry appeared to be trying to sketch out a way forward for Crimea that would keep it in Ukraine, but it remained unclear if Russian President Vladimir Putin was interested in such an outcome or simply wants to cement Russian control of the region.
JAKUB KAMINSKI / EPA
Pro-Russian protesters hold a Russian, Crimean and Soviet flags during their rally at Lenin Square in Simferopol, Ukraine, March 16, 2014. Polling stations opened in Crimea for a referendum about whether the Ukrainian Black Sea region should join Russia. The vote has been widely condemned by Western governments, who call it illegal and have announced sanctions against Russia if it goes ahead.
First published March 16 2014, 10:28 AM