West meets Russia in bid to resolve Ukraine crisis

France, the United States, Britain and Russia all held crucial talks in Paris on Wednesday aimed at resolving the crisis in the Crimea. However hopes that Ukraine and Russia would come face to face for discussions hung in the balance.

West meets Russia in bid to resolve Ukraine crisis
French president Francois Hollande (2ndR) shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry (2ndL) eyed by French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius (L) Photo: AFP

Western hopes of engineering direct talks between Russia and Ukraine aimed at resolving the crisis in the Crimea hung in the balance on Wednesday.

An official at Ukraine's embassy in the French capital said the country's acting foreign minister had left for the airport having failed to secure a hoped-for meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

But that was immediately denied by US officials who said they were still hopeful the mooted meeting could take place before the end of the day.

"The Ukrainian foreign minister has not left and is considering remaining in Paris for further conversations," a State Department official said, ahead of a second meeting of the day between Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry. "We are on our way to see Lavrov now.

The United States, Britain, France and Germany had earlier urged Lavrov to agree to face-to-face talks with Ukraine's Andriy Deshchytsya as a signal of its willingness to de-escalate the crisis.

Kerry, who has worked closely with Lavrov on Syria, had a first one-on-one discussion with the Russian after similar talks involving the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, a senior State Department official said.

It was the first time Kerry and Lavrov had met since a pro-Moscow government in Ukraine was ousted, prompting the de facto takeover of the Crimean peninsula by pro-Moscow forces.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said European Union governments would have no option but to consider sanctions against Russia if it did not agree to enter dialogue with a Ukrainian government that Moscow does not recognise.

EU leaders are due to discuss the Ukraine situation at an emergency summit in Brussels on Thursday.

"I think what happens at the European Council will partly be determined by Russia's willingness to talk to Ukraine today," Hague said. "This is the test for Russia today."

The government currently in power in Ukraine took power on February 22 after Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev following three months of pro-European Union protests which left nearly 100 dead.

Hague said Yanukovych's departure legitimised the administration that has filled the gap and urged Russia to accept it as a negotiating partner.

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Macron, Scholz and Draghi meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have met the Ukrainian president in Kyiv, after the trio travelled overnight by train from Poland.

Macron, Scholz and Draghi meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

The three leaders left in the early hours of Thursday, arriving into Kyiv on Thursday morning. After a visit to the heavily-bombed town of Irpin, they met Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

It is the first time that the leaders of the three European Union countries have visited Kyiv since Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine, and the visit comes as Kyiv is pushing for membership of the EU.

Macron has been paying a two-day visit to Romania and Moldova to discuss the ongoing crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

There had been widespread speculation in France that he would combine the trip with a visit to Zelensky in Ukraine, but this was not confirmed until Thursday morning.

In a joint press conference with Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, Macron reiterated his desire that Ukraine should win the war, but added that eventually negotiations between Ukraine and Russia will be necessary.