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Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday after a four hour meeting in Paris with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that they each made “suggestions” about how to ease tensions over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.
However, “it is Ukrainians who must ultimately agree to any decisions,” Kerry said during a briefing after the meeting.
Kerry said in the “frank” conversation, he told Lavrov that the U.S. considers Russia’s actions in Ukraine to be “illegal and illegitimate.”
The “large” presence of Russian forces “are creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine,” Kerry said.
Earlier Sunday, Lavrov appeared on Russia's "First Channel" and accused the West of plotting to divide Ukraine and Russia.
"It seems that our Western colleagues have been creating the conditions for many years, to tear away Ukraine from Russia."
Kerry and Lavrov spoke on the phone on Saturday, after which Kerry diverted his plane en route home from Saudi Arabia and headed to Europe to speak with the foreign minister.
Lavrov appeared on Russian television after the phone call and declared, "We have absolutely no intention of — or interest in — crossing Ukraine's borders."
Kerry said Lavrov expressed Sunday that Russia desired to support Ukraine in their independence.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed concern in a phone call with President Barack Obama on Friday that Ukrainian extremists are intimidating ethnic Russians, leaving the U.S. with little reassurance that Russia does not plan another incursion into Ukraine.
“The U.S. and international community stand in firm support of Ukraine’s sovereignty,” Kerry said Sunday.
— Elisha Fieldstadt
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.