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Russia ignores US proposal to end Ukraine standoff

Kremlin accused of employing delaying tactics

Soldiers believed to be Russian rode on armored personnel carriers near Sevastopol in the Crimea Monday.

Baz Ratner/REUTERS

Soldiers believed to be Russian rode on armored personnel carriers near Sevastopol in the Crimea Monday.

KIEV — Russia said Monday it cannot accept the “fait accompli” of the new Western-backed government in Ukraine and was preparing diplomatic counterproposals to serve “the interests of all Ukrainians,” even as Russian forces strengthened their control over Crimea.

The Kremlin statement was issued less than a week before a contentious referendum on the future of that southern Ukrainian region. It was made public in a televised video showing Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov briefing President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

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Lavrov said proposals made by Secretary of State John Kerry “did not completely satisfy us” because they used “the situation created by the coup as a starting point.” He told Putin that Kerry had delayed a visit to Moscow and that Russia was working on its own proposals.

But in Washington, State Department officials said it was the Kremlin that had thwarted the prospects of a negotiated solution or even another meeting between Kerry and his Russian counterpart by refusing to engage on the US proposals, especially the idea that Russian officials meet with officials from the new Ukrainian government.

When Kerry sent Lavrov a series of questions Saturday over the Kremlin’s stance, Russian officials never responded, the State Department said.

“Secretary Kerry made clear to Foreign Minister Lavrov that he would welcome further discussions focused on how to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine if and when we see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on these proposals,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The Russian diplomatic moves seemed to Ukrainian officials to be delaying tactics, as Russian forces acted more assertively in Crimea.

The Russian troops took over a military hospital in the regional capital, Simferopol, and a military base in Sevastopol.

They seized a small Ukrainian naval supply base at Chornomorskoye, on the western coast, where pro-Russian “self-defense units” and police patrolled the town, threatened journalists from The New York Times and a man they were interviewing, and confiscated the journalists’ notes.

The Russians also took a small base housing a Ukrainian motorized battalion in Bakhchisarai after firing in the air, said Alexei A. Mazepa, a spokesman for the Ukrainian ministry of defense in Crimea. No one was reported hurt.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that lawlessness rules in eastern Ukraine as a result of extreme rightists “with the full connivance” of the Kiev authorities.

The statement claimed that masked men had fired on and injured peaceful protesters last week in Karkiv. Ukraine has said that Russia is fabricating such charges as part of a propaganda campaign to destabilize the Kiev government and justify possible new military action in the east.

Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the Ukrainian prime minister, will speak to the United Nations on Thursday, a day after he meets President Obama in the White House in what the administration intends to be a show of firm US support.

The United States and its allies have joined the Ukrainian government in declaring the Russian occupation of Crimea illegal and the referendum unconstitutional and nonbinding.

The Obama administration has stepped up its attempts to court China’s support for isolating Russia over the military intervention. Official comments from China have been neutral since the Ukraine crisis began, and Obama spoke to President Xi Jinping of China late Sunday in a bid to get Beijing off the fence, the Associated Press reported.

The Ukrainian foreign minister, Andriy Deshchytsya, received his counterparts from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, who had come Monday to show support.

“We have to admit that our life now is almost like a war,” he said. “We have to cope with an aggression that we do not understand.”

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