LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russia on Friday to make clear the meaning of its troop deployments near Ukraine.
Kerry said he had raised concerns over the troop movements during six hours of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London aimed at reducing tensions ahead of a referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region on March 16.
“Neither we nor the international community will recognize the results of this referendum and we also remain deeply concerned about the large deployments of Russian forces in Crimea and along the eastern border,” he added.
“Right now, given this particular climate, we really need to hear more declarative policy in order to make clear where Russia is proceeding with respect to these troops and these exercises.”
Kerry said the Kremlin’s next steps would depend on a final decision that Russian President Vladimir Putin would take after the referendum.
“The Foreign Minister made it clear that President Putin is not prepared to make any decision regarding Ukraine until after the referendum on Sunday,” Kerry said.
“We believe the referendum is contrary to the constitution of Ukraine, contrary to international law, is in violation of that law, and is illegitimate,” he said.
A ratification of the referendum vote by Russia’s parliament would amount to the backdoor annexation of Crimea, Kerry added.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton, writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Stephen Addison