U.S., Russia Talk As Crisis In Ukraine Nears New Flash Point
By Mark Memmott
While Crimeans prepare to vote Sunday on whether to join the Russian Federation, Secretary of State John Kerry is in London for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
As NPR's Ari Shapiro tells our Newscast Desk, Kerry is looking for a way to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.
The BBC adds that Kerry is expected to warn Lavrov "that the disputed referendum being held in Crimea in two days and Russia's military intervention there could trigger concerted U.S. and EU sanctions."
Indeed, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reported on Thursday, Kerry says that if Russia doesn't help resolve the crisis, "there will be a very serious series of steps Monday in Europe" and the U.S.
Those steps could include economic sanctions and additional travel restrictions on any officials believed to have been responsible for Russian intervention in Ukraine.
On Morning Edition, NPR's Gregory Warner reported from Crimea about the scene there in advance of Sunday's vote. He reports having seen dozens of armored personnel carriers, fuel supply trucks and military satellite systems near the region's border with the rest of Ukraine.
Gregory notes that Crimeans will be asked to vote on two questions Sunday: whether to join the Russian Federation; or whether to stay part of Ukraine but revert to an earlier constitution that gave them even more autonomy and the chance for dual Ukrainian-Russian citizenship.
Also on Morning Edition, NPR's Peter Kenyon reported about the concerns that Crimea's Tatars have over the pro-Russian sentiment in the region.
Need a refresher on what this crisis is all about?
As we've previously said, Crimea has been the focus of attention as the ripple effects of the protests that led to last month's ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych have spread.
Summing up the history and importance of Crimea to Russia and Ukraine isn't possible in just a few sentences, of course. The Parallels blog, though, has published several posts that contain considerable context:
We've recapped what set off months of protest in Kiev and ultimately led to Yanukovych's dismissal by his nation's parliament last month this way:
"The protests were sparked in part by the president's rejection of a pending trade treaty with the European Union and his embrace of more aid from Russia. Protesters were also drawn into the streets to demonstrate against government corruption."
It was after Yanukovych left Kiev and headed for the Russian border that troops moved to take control of strategic locations in Crimea.