Russian, Ukrainian ministers meet for 1st time

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm •  Published: March 24, 2014

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met for the first time Monday with his Ukrainian counterpart to discuss the crisis that has grown into one of the gravest security challenges to Europe since the end of the Cold War.

Lavrov, who spoke to reporters after meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia in The Hague, where both attended an international security summit, said he outlined the steps that Moscow believes the new Ukrainian government has to make to defuse the crisis.

The meeting was the first encounter between the two ministers since last month's ouster of Ukraine's pro-Russian president and Russia's annexation of Crimea. While Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that contacts between Russian and Ukrainian officials have continued, the meeting Monday was at the highest level since the new Ukrainian government took power a month ago.

Lavrov, who also met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, said he reaffirmed Moscow's demand for a constitutional reform in Ukraine that would give more autonomy to all regions of Ukraine. Russia, eager to retain its influence in Ukraine's Russian-speaking eastern regions and prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, has pushed for Ukraine to become federation — demands the new Ukrainian government has rejected.

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