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  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the Ukraine crisis after his meetings with other foreign ministers in Paris, March 5, 2014. Kerry spoke to reporters at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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  • Riot police stand guard in front of a regional government building as pro-Russian demonstrators take part in a rally in Kharkiv March 5, 2014. Russia rebuffed Western demands to withdraw forces in Ukraine's Crimea region to their bases on Wednesday amid a day of high-stakes diplomacy in Paris aimed at easing tensions over Ukraine and averting the risk of war. REUTERS/Stringer

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  • Here's a transcript of remarks Secretary Kerry made with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia earlier today in Paris:
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  • @JasonGuy: Apologies -- we lost our feed on Kerry. It would appear he wrapped his comments just recently, as well.
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  • We are pursuing, as President Obama indicated he would like to [...] we would prefer to find an appropriate diplomatic solution to this. And I think everybody is better served through that: Kerry
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  • Kerry adds: "I'd rather be where we are today than be where we are yesterday."
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  • Kerry describes talks today as "very productive," without "raising hopes that are inappropriate to raise."
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  • There are 'a number of ideas on the table' to resolve Ukraine tensions: Kerry
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  • Kerry says he expects to meet with Lavrov in Rome on Thursday
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  • Kerry says he had "zero expectation" that Ukraine and Russian foreign ministers would meet in Paris: Reuters
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  • U.S. is ready to work with all parties to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine crisis: Kerry
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  • Lavrov says he will continue discussion on Ukraine "in days to come": Reuters
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  • Lavrov did not meet Ukrainian counterpart at Paris talks: Western diplomats
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  • No agreements made at Paris meeting between Kerry and Lavrov, despite earlier Russian report: senior State Department official
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  • UN special envoy Robert Serry gestures as he leaves in a car in Simferopol March 5, 2014. Serry was forced to abandon a mission to Ukraine's Russian-occupied Crimea region on Wednesday after being stopped by armed men and besieged inside a cafe by a hostile crowd shouting "Russia! Russia!" REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

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  • Putin, Merkel discussed possible international efforts to improve situation in Ukraine: Kremlin
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  • NATO's Rasmussen announces review of all NATO cooperation with Russia over events in Ukraine
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  • Ukrainian, Russian, British and U.S. foreign ministers have all arrived at French foreign ministry; no word yet on talks: Reuters reporters
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  • Britain says it's freezing the assets across the EU of 18 Ukrainians suspected of misappropriating Ukraine state funds: UK Finance Minister, via Twitter
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  • Ukraine's economy wilts under crisis but rescue hopes rise

    Ukraine's government said on Wednesday "Russian aggression" in Crimea was hitting the country's economy hard but signaled growing confidence that it will secure international loans and avoid bankruptcy.

    Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk painted a picture of economic catastrophe in Ukraine at a government meeting, and set out plans to give more financial independence to the regions and provide the Crimean peninsula with subsidies.

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  • Pro-Russian crowd recaptures Donetsk building

    A crowd of pro-Russian activists recaptured the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Wednesday, hours after they were ejected by police.

    The crowd of about 200 protesters threw open the front doors and re-entered the building despite a heavy police presence after a day-long demonstration following their ejection from a building they had held since Monday.

    Earlier on Wednesday Ukraine flew its flag atop the building, replacing a Russian flag that had flown there since Saturday. Donetsk has seen the most persistent of a wave of pro-Russian demonstrations that broke out in southern and eastern cities on Saturday as President Vladimir Putin was declaring Russia's right to invade.

    Kiev says the protests have been arranged by Moscow to justify military intervention.

    (Reporting by Lina Kushch; Writing by Peter Graff)
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  • Italy's unicredit lifts limit on ATM withdrawls for subsidiary in Ukraine due to "stabilization of the situation": Reuters
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  • Russian bailout's fate may depend on whether Ukraine gets better offer - finmin

    KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's finance minister said on Wednesday he did not rule out continuing cooperation with Russia over a $15-billion (8 billion pounds) financial bailout package but that a decision could depend on whether Kiev gets a better offer from elsewhere.

    "If we can count on getting more attractive funds, we will no longer continue the Eurobond programme," Finance Minister Oleksander Shlapak told reporters.

    Russian bought Ukrainian Eurobonds worth $3 billion in December under the bailout offered by Moscow after Kiev spurned a trade and political pact with the European Union and turned to Moscow instead.

    Russia has withheld the $2-billion second tranche of the bailout and has not said whether it will continue with the programme since the removal of Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich as president last month. Ukraine is holding talks with the International Monetary Fund on a new financial programme.

    (Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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  • EU ready to provide 11 billion euros of financial aid to Ukraine

    BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is ready to provide 11 billion euros (8 billion pounds) of financial support to Ukraine over the next couple of years via a series of loans and grants, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday.

    The assistance would be delivered in coordination with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank, and is in part contingent on Ukraine signing a deal with the International Monetary Fund.

    "The package combined could bring an overall support of at least 11 billion euros over the next couple of years, from the EU budget and EU-based international financialinstitutions," Barroso told a news conference.

    The announcement comes a day after the United States offered $1 billion in loan guarantees and said it would send technical experts to Ukraine to advise its central bank and finance ministry on how to tackle economic difficulties.

    Ukraine is on the verge of bankruptcy because of economic mismanagement, high energy costs and currency turmoil fuelled by a conflict with Russia since the ouster of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich in February.

    The West has stepped up efforts in recent days to persuade Moscow to pull its forces from the Ukrainian Crimea peninsula, which they seized after the fall of Yanukovich, and avert the risk of war.

    The EU also plans to bring forward trade benefits that Ukraine would have received had it signed an association agreement with the EU last year, and will work on providing energy to Ukraine via "reverse flows" of gas from the EU.

    Kiev's new rulers have said they need $35 billion over the next two years. But its shorter-term requirements are much less and are estimated to be around $4 billion, according to some EU officials.

    European leaders will hold an emergency summit on Thursday in Brussels to discuss what steps to take next on Russia, having threatened sanctions if Moscow does not reverse course in Ukraine.

    (Writing by Luke Baker; editing by Martin Santa)
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  • Ukraine may start talks with creditors to restructure foreign currency debt

    KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine could start talks with creditors on restructuring debt denominated in foreign currency, Finance Minister Oleksander Shlapak said on Wednesday.

    He did not say how much might be restructured but told reporters the government faced about $10 billion (5 billion pounds) in payments on its foreign currency debt this year to foreign and local creditors.

    "Without doubt we will make such a proposal (on talks) to our partners," he said.

    (Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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  • Putin says hopes political tension won't hurt economic ties

    NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he did not want political tension to detract from economic cooperation with Russia's "traditional partners", signalling he hopes to avoid spillover from a bitter dispute with the West over Ukraine.

    "We are seeing known political tension, it should not affect our current economic cooperation," Putin told cabinet members.

    "It's not necessary to add to the difficult situation, we need to cooperate with all our traditional partners - while providing for our own interests, of course," he said.

    "It is not necessary to whip things up and place political considerations on top of issues of economic cooperation."

    The United States and European Union are considering imposing sanctions on Russia over what they say is its military intervention in Ukraine's Crimea region and Putin's threat to send the armed forces into Ukraine if he deems it necessary.

    Putin said on Tuesday he would only use the military in Ukraine as a last resort to protect Russian speakers there, but he made no indication Russia would relax its levers of control over Crimea.

    (Reporting by Darya Korsuskaya; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)
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  • U.S. and UK fail to bring together Russia and Ukraine in Paris

    PARIS (Reuters) - The United States and Britain failed in an attempt to bring Russia and Ukraine together on Wednesday at a meeting in Paris of a group created to assure Kiev's security after it renounced nuclear weapons in the 1990s.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that "regrettably" one member, Russia, had not appeared for a meeting of the so-called Budapest agreement group, which involves Washington, London, Moscow and Kiev.

    However, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said every diplomatic effort would be made to bring the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine together later in the day after an international conference on Lebanon.

    (Reporting By Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by John Irish)
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  • Ukraine security chief hopes talks can soon end Crimea crisis

    KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's top security official said on Wednesday he hoped the crisis the Crimea region, where Russian forces have taken over buildings and military installations, could soon be resolved through dialogue.

    "Last night there were already fewer emergency situations and fewer conflicts in Crimea," Andriy Paruby, Secretary of Ukraine's Security and Defence Council, told reporters. "I hope that in the coming days a way will be found to solve everything through negotiations."

    He said Russian forces had not made any new military gains in Crimea but warned of the danger of new attempts by pro-Russian protesters to take over government buildings in eastern and southern Ukraine.

    (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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  • Russia says cannot order Crimean "self-defence" forces back to base

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Russia cannot order pro-Russian armed groups in Ukraine's Crimea region to return to their bases because they are "self-defence" forces and do not answer to Moscow.

    Western states are discussing a potential resolution to the crisis ignited by Russian intervention in Crimea under which Russia would pull back its forces to their bases on the Black Sea peninsula and allow in international monitors.

    Speaking in Madrid in remarks shown on Russian television, Lavrov repeated Russia's assertion that armed men deployed there are not Russian forces, said Russian naval personnel were in normal positions and said it was up to Crimean and Ukrainian authorities to grant international observers access.

    (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Writing by Steve Gutterman)
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  • A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard on the territory of a military unit located in the village of Lyubimovka near a local airfield, southwest of Simferopol, Crimea's capital March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

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  • Armed men believed to be Russian servicemen march outside a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol, March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

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  • Armed men believed to be Russian servicemen march outside a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol, March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

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  • Ukraine foreign minister: we want peace, not fight with Russians

    PARIS (Reuters) - Ukraine's foreign minister said on Wednesday he wanted to press for a peaceful solution to the conflict with Russia.

    On arrival in Paris for international talks on the conflict, Andrii Deshchytsia said: "We want to say a few things to the Russians. We want to keep good dialogue and good relations with the Russian people. We want to settle this conflict peacefully and we don't want to fight the Russians".

    (Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Brian Love; editing by Mark John)
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  • Ukraine raises flag over Donetsk government building

    DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Ukraine on Wednesday raised its flag over the government headquarters in the eastern city of Donetsk where a Russian flag had stood since Saturday, witnesses said.

    Police said they were evacuating the building, which has been occupied since Monday by pro-Russian demonstrators. A police statement said the evacuation began after reports that the building was booby-trapped with explosives.

    Donetsk, home city of deposed president Viktor Yanukovich, is one of around a half dozen cities in eastern Ukraine that saw pro-Russian protests erupt on Saturday just as President Vladimir Putin was announcing that he had the right to invade.

    Demonstrators, led by a man who declared himself "people's governor", have been holed up in the regional administration building, demanding relations with Kiev be severed and control over the police and security forces be placed in their hands.

    Kiev accues Moscow of organising the protests and says many of the demonstrators are Russians bused across the border to create an excuse for military intervention.

    "A message was received at 8:30 (0630 GMT) from an unknown person that there is a grenade in the regional council building," said Olga Pochkalova, police spokeswoman. "An investigative-operational team is checking and people are being led out of the building."

    Witnesses said the Russian flag on the roof of the 11-storey building was replaced with a Ukrainian flag, but another Russian flag was still flying from a flagpole in front.

    (Reporting by Lina Kushch; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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  • Russians seize Ukrainian missile defence units in Crimea - Interfax

    KIEV (Reuters) - Russian forces seized two Ukrainian missile defence battalions in the Crimea region on Wednesday, Interfax news agency quoted a military source as saying.

    The Ukrainian Defence Ministry was unable immediately to confirm on the report, which quoted the source saying: "We now expect the arrival of Russian missile specialists and pro-Russian activists who will have to persuade the Ukrainian military personnel to carry out joint combat duties."

    (Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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  • Russian 'aggression' hits Ukraine's economy, prime minister says

    KIEV (Reuters) - Russia's deployment of forces in the Crimea region is having an "extremely negative" impact on the country's economy, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Wednesday.

    He also said at the start of a government meeting that the situation in Ukraine remained difficult, with Russian forces in control of the Black Sea peninsula.

    "The Russian aggression on Ukraine's territory is having political and economic consequences," Yatseniuk said in remarks shown on television. "The presence of the Russian military on Ukraine's territory is having an extremely negative effect on Ukraine' economy."

    He gave no details but the new government is holding talks with the International Monetary Fund on financial assistance to avert bankruptcy.

    (Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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  • France warns Russia of rapid EU sanctions

    PARIS (Reuters) - European Union leaders holding a crisis meeting on Ukraine on Thursday could impose sanctions on Russia if there has been no "de-escalation" by then, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

    Fabius told France's BFM TV that such measures could include restrictions on visas, the assets of individuals and existing discussions on economic ties with Russia.

    "Let's start to initiate the path of dialogue, but at the same time tomorrow there is an EU summit and sanctions could be voted tomorrow if there is no de-escalation. I expect and hope that Russia will today tell us that there is a prospect for dialogue with a contact group," he said, referring to proposals to form a grouping of key players in the Ukraine crisis.

    Fabius was speaking before hosting talks between his Russian, U.S., Ukrainian and other counterparts on the margins of a long-scheduled meeting on Lebanon in the French capital.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet face-to-face for the first time since the crisis escalated, after a conference in Paris attended by all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, diplomats organising the talks said.

    Fabius added that France had jointly elaborated a "crisis exit" plan with Germany, whose leader Angela Merkel has been more reticent than French officials to publicly raise the threat of sanctions on Russia.

    Despite his toughly worded warning to Moscow, Fabius reiterated previous comments that France had no plan as yet to suspend deliveries of naval ships to Russia.

    (Reporting by John Irish and Mark John; editing by Brian Love)
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  • Russia works on law to hurt EU, U.S. companies as sanctions reply - RIA

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian lawmakers are working on a draft law to allow the confiscation of property, assets and accounts of European or U.S. companies if sanctions are imposed on Russia over Ukraine, RIA news agency said on Wednesday.

    RIA quoted Andrei Klishas, head of the constitutional legislation committee in the upper parliament house, as saying the bill "would offer the president and government opportunities to defend our sovereignty from threats".

    He added that lawyers were examining whether the confiscation of foreign companies'assets, property and accounts would comply with the Russian constitution but said such steps would "clearly be in line with European standards".

    (Writing by Elizabeth Piper, editing by Steve Gutterman)
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  • Russia's Lavrov says Feb agreement must be basis for Ukraine peace

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton an EU-brokered agreement signed on February 21 should be the basis for stabilising the situation in Ukraine, the ministry said on Wednesday.

    In a statement, Russia's Foreign Ministry said at a meeting on Tuesday "Lavrov emphasised that the normalisation of the situation in that country should be based on the founding principles of the agreement about regulating the crisis in Ukraine on February 21".

    He said the agreement foresaw constitutional reform which would take into account the wishes of all regions in Ukraine.

    (Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, editing by Megan Davies)
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  • Obama and Merkel discuss potential resolution to Ukraine crisis

    By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday about a potential resolution to the crisis ignited by Russian intervention in Ukraine's Crimea region, a senior administration official said.

    Full Article
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  • Japan's embrace of Russia under threat with Ukraine crisis

    By Aaron Sheldrick

    TOKYO (Reuters) - Russia's incursion into Ukraine is setting off alarm bells in Tokyo, where officials worry that any push by Japan's Western allies to impose economic penalties will undermine its drive to improve relations with Moscow.

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  • Ukraine says it's stepping up protection of nuclear plants

    Ukraine is reinforcing the protection of its nuclear power plants, it told the U.N. atomic watchdog on Tuesday, because of "a grave threat to the security" of the country posed by the Russian military.

    Ukraine has 15 nuclear power reactors in operation, accounting for nearly 44 percent of its electricity production in 2013, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) website.

    Ukraine's envoy to the IAEA said in a letter to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano: "Illegal actions of the Russian armed forces on Ukrainian territory and the threat of use of force amount to a grave threat to security of Ukraine with its potential consequences for its nuclear power infrastructure."

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  • Secretary of State John Kerry (C) departs Kiev on a foggy evening, March 4, 2014. Ahead of Kerry on the stairs is Ukraine Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia, who is travelling to Paris with Kerry. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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Putin says Russia will follow up fast after Ukraine call with Biden

MOSCOW Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would send ideas to Washington within a week to follow up his talks with U.S. President Joe Biden on the Ukraine crisis.