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Secretary of State John Kerry follows Ukraine Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia, right, on their way to board a plane to Paris from Kiev on March 4. / Kevin Lamarque, AFP

KIEV, Ukraine - Negotiations to end the crisis in Crimea foundered Wednesday over Russia's refusal to recognize Ukraine's new leaders much less sit down with its ambassador.

"I wish I could give you some good news," said Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski outside the talks in Paris. "But unfortunately it hasn't been possible to bring together the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia."

Wednesday's gathering of diplomats in Paris came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to calm fears of further military incursion by saying he has no intention to "fight the Ukrainian people." Russian troops took over key points of Crimea after the parliament in Kiev ousted Ukraine's pro-Moscow president, Viktor Yanukovych.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and several European diplomats met Wednesday to discuss whether there are peaceful ways to end Russia's occupation of Crimea, a peninsula where many Russian-speaking people say they want more autonomy from Kiev.

But Lavrov refused to meet with the Ukraine ambassador, saying he represents an "illegitimate" government.

"I don't think any of us had an anticipation that we were coming here at this moment, in this atmosphere of heightened tension and confrontation, that we were suddenly going to resolve that here, this afternoon," Kerry said after talks ended for the day.

To induce Crimea to lean toward Europe rather than Russia, the European Union on Wednesday matched a $15 billion aid offer that Putin had made to help with Ukraine's financial woes.

The United States offered an additional $1 billion in loan guarantees to help Ukraine reduce its energy reliance on Russia, which supplies the majority of Ukraine's natural gas.

In Ukraine, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blamed Putin for causing one of the sharpest international crises in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Despite a denial from Lavrov, Russian troops have fanned into Crimea and are controlling border crossings and bases, as well as encouraging Ukrainians to rise up against the government, he said.

"Mr. President (Putin), stop this mess," Yatsenyuk said. "Let me remind Mr. Putin that this government was supported by the constitutional majority of Ukrainian members of parliament. We are legitimate."

Ukrainians who helped oust Yanukovych say Putin had planned all along to invade and was just waiting for an excuse.

"It is all about the Russians' ambitions," said Roman Yaruchik, 40, of Kiev. "It's obvious that Russian troops entered Crimea even before their parliament ratified sending the troops to invade Crimea."

Putin claims that Yanukovych, whom he has given sanctuary in Russia, remains the true president. The Ukraine government has issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of murder for the shooting of more than 80 protesters in Kiev.

In Crimea, Russian troops held onto positions outside Crimean cities and pro-Russian militia members blocked Ukraine military bases to prevent soldiers from getting out.

A special U.N. envoy cut short his mission in Crimea on Wednesday after being threatened by 10 to 15 armed men and ordered to leave the region, U.N. officials said.

ITV News' Europe Editor James Mates reported that envoy Robert Serry left his car, which had been blocked by the armed men shouting, "Putin! Putin!," and took refuge in a nearby coffee shop.

The United States and European Union have threatened Russia with economic sanctions if it does not back down. A Russian politician told the RIA Novosti news agency that the Russian Senate was preparing a bill that would allow for the confiscation of American and European corporate assets located in Russia were sanctions to be introduced.



Copyright 2014USA TODAY

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