Moscow (AFP) – Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov said Saturday that US involvement in resolving the conflict in Ukraine would be a “step in the right direction”, after meeting with his US counterpart John Kerry in Beijing.
Lavrov’s remarks appeared to soften Russia’s line on the crisis ahead of high-level meetings between President Vladimir Putin and world leaders at an APEC summit in China and a Group of 20 summit in Australia next week.
“Our positions on what is happening in Ukraine do not correspond with the United States, but if Washington is interested in contributing to the reconciliation of the situation and creating dialogue between Kiev and the rebel leadership… I think that would be a step in the right direction,” the Russian foreign minister said in comments shown on state television.
The United States should discourage “hot heads” among Kiev’s leadership from resuming a full-scale conflict with the pro-Russian separatists, Lavrov added.
Kiev on Friday accused Russia of sending troops and tanks across the border to help the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has killed over 4,000 people since April.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there had been no independent confirmation of the incursion.
When asked for information about the allegations, Lavrov said: “If Psaki doesn’t have it, I don’t.”
Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over Ukraine since Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March.
Putin last month accused President Barack Obama of meddling in Russia’s affairs and causing the war in Ukraine by supporting “rabid nationalism” there.
Kerry on Wednesday warned Russia that sanctions pressure could be intensified if Moscow does not show commitment to a ceasefire agreement signed with the rebels in September in the Belarussian capital Minsk.
Moscow on Friday appeared keen to pull back slightly by specifying it “respected” — but had not officially recognised — the results of a leadership vote held by the rebels last weekend, in a move that sought to formalise their control over the separatist-held territory.
Lavrov previously said that Moscow would recognise the results.