Russia snubs Kerry at Ukraine meeting

Russia on Wednesday turned down Secretary of State John Kerry's invitation to an emergency meeting on Ukraine, further adding to the growing tensions between Moscow and Washington.

Kerry hosted the meeting in Paris with the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Great Britain, which signed a 1994 treaty, along with the U.S. and Russia, guaranteeing Ukraine's territorial integrity if it gave up its nuclear arsenal.

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The three countries on Wednesday slammed Russia's “continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” which they said would “only degrade Russia’s international standing and lead to greater political and economic consequences.”

“We deeply regret that the Russian Federation declined to attend,” the State Department said in a statement. “The Memorandum … obliges the U.K., U.S. and Russia to consult in the event of a situation arising where the memorandum commitments are questioned.

“Ukraine voluntarily surrendered the world’s third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in exchange for these assurances. The three governments treat these assurances with utmost seriousness, and expect Russia to as well.”

Kerry is expected to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov later Wednesday.

The parties at the meeting called for direct talks between Russia and Ukraine, facilitated by the international community, as a way to defuse tensions. Russia says it doesn't recognize Ukraine's interim government, which replaced ousted President Viktor Yanukovych late last month.

“They also agreed that international observers should be deployed immediately in Ukraine, especially in eastern Ukraine and Crimea,” the State Department said. “The three governments reaffirmed the importance of protecting the rights of all Ukrainian citizens and believed that international observers would help address any concerns regarding irregular forces, military activity and the treatment of all Ukrainians irrespective of their ethnicity or spoken language.”

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