Russia and Ukraine foreign ministers wage war of words over Crimea

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Ukraine won’t give up Crimea but it will do all in its power to resolve the crisis there peacefully.

That is the message from acting foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsia as the region prepares for a referendum on joining Russia following a pro-Russian takeover there.

“Crimea was and will remain Ukrainian territory,” Deshchytsia told a news conference in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

“We are not giving Crimea to anyone. We will do everything possible to secure the territorial integrity of Ukraine and its borders.”

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insists that interim authorities in Kyiv are taking orders from extremists.

He says, however, that Moscow is open to further talks with the West, if the right conditions are met.

“We are ready to pursue dialogue if we have the assurance that it will be an honest dialogue between equal partners and without attempts to portray us as a party to the conflict,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow.

Russia has warned the West over punitive measures,
pledging to retaliate over an EU decision to freeze talks on visa-free travel, for instance.

As for Washington, Moscow says imposing sanctions on Russia will boomerang back on the United States.