Moscow - Russia is open to having an “honest, equal” dialogue with foreign states on the crisis in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.
“We are open to an honest, equal and objective dialogue with our foreign partners to find a way to help all of Ukraine come out of the crisis,” Lavrov said at a televised news conference in Moscow with his Tajik counterpart, in a clear reference to the West. “We are ready to continue dialogue on the understanding that this dialogue should be honest and partner-like, without attempts to portray us as one of the sides in the conflict.”
Lavrov added: “This crisis was not created by us (Russia). All the more, it was created in defiance of our repeated and longstanding warnings.”
Tensions between Moscow and the West have surged in recent days as pro-Moscow forces took over the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which then announced plans to hold a referendum on becoming part of Russia.
Lavrov has held talks with Western officials including US Secretary of State John Kerry, but without reaching any breakthrough. The Russian foreign minister launched a new attack on the Ukrainian government that took power after the overthrow of president Viktor Yanukovych and said terror and chaos were reigning in the country. “The so-called temporary government is not independent and depends very unfortunately on radical nationalists who carried out an armed seizure of power,” Lavrov said. “There is no kind of de facto state control for law and order,” he said.
Lavrov said far-right radicals of the Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) group were “playing the tune” and accused them of using methods of “terror and intimidation”.
Russia may suspend nuclear arms inspections set down in a treaty with the United States in reaction to Western sanctions over Ukraine, Russian news agencies quoted an unnamed defence ministry source on Saturday as saying. The source said the ministry was studying the possibility of suspending on-site inspections agreed in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between Moscow and Washington.
The United States suspended military cooperation such as joint exercises and port visits with Russia on Monday as Washington sought ways to punish Moscow over its intervention in Ukraine without escalating the crisis. “The ungrounded threats to Russia from the US and NATO over its Ukrainian policy are regarded by us as an unfriendly gesture and allow us to announce force majeure,” the unnamed source is quoted as saying by the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “We are ready to take this step as a response to Pentagon’s statements about suspension of engagements between armies of Russia and the US,” the source said.
Ukraine’s acting foreign minister said on Saturday his country would not give up Crimea and would do all in its power to resolve the crisis over the Black Sea peninsula peacefully. Andriy Deshchytsia also urged Russia to do more to ensure foreign observers can enter Crimea and made a new call for the creation of an international “contact group” to discuss the crisis over the region, now controlled by Russian forces. “Crimea is and will be Ukrainian territory and we will not give up Crimea to anyone,” Deshchytsia told a news conference in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Referring to deaths this year during protests against Ukraine’s now deposed leader, Viktor Yanukovich, he said: “We are putting all our efforts into solving this matter through diplomacy - we have already had too many victims.”
Meanwhile, it turns out all those years Russian leader Vladimir Putin was cavorting bare-chested outdoors, demonstrating his judo skills and darting whales, a Pentagon researcher may have been studying him for clues to his behaviour. The Office of Net Assessments, a sort of internal think tank for the US secretary of defense, has spent $300,000 annually since 2009 for research to study the body language and movement patterns of key global leaders, one of them being Putin, who has served as Russia’s president and prime minister.
Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said Putin had been studied in 2008, along with Russia’s then-President Dmitry Medvedev, and again in 2012.
He denied news reports implying there was an ongoing study of Putin in connection with the current crisis in Ukraine, and said the reports on Putin “have not informed any policy decisions by the Department of Defense.”
“We didn’t ... commission a study to study Vladimir Putin’s body language,” Kirby told a news conference. “The researcher ... determines the identity of the individuals that she wants to look at on her own.”
“There’s been no study of Vladimir Putin with respect to the recent crisis in Ukraine,” he added.
Kirby said he had not seen the researcher’s reports and did not know who in the Pentagon had read them. He said the reports are delivered to the Office of Net Assessments, and like much of its other research do not get circulated widely.
The research on foreign leaders has been conducted for years and at one point was carried out within the State Department, officials said. In the past 10 years, approximately 40 reports have been done on different leaders, a defense official said.
“It’s a research program that examines the ... body movements and body language of various world figures to determine a better understanding of their decision making process,” Kirby told the news conference.
Officials identified the lead researcher as Brenda Connors, a fellow at the Naval War College in Rhode Island and certified movement analyst, who conducts the studies with a small team.
While her reports have not been made public, she has written newspaper articles on Putin that were based on her research and were cleared by the Pentagon, officials said.
One 2004 article published in the Providence Journal in Rhode Island described Putin’s movement style as one that “shows a man struggling to move forward - a weakness that is proving to be an impediment to both his leadership and Russia’s future.”
The article said by looking at videotapes in split-second detail it was possible to “discover a person’s signature movement style, a pattern as unique as a fingerprint.”
“Putin’s inability to integrate movement ... raises obstacles to his sophisticated exercise of power,” the article said.
“His judo displays show a contender trying to advance, but his movement pattern causes the ‘tail’ to lag. One could compare this to his desire to move Russia forward while remaining stuck in the Soviet past,” it said.
Kirby said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had not read the reports.
Asked about Hagel’s view of the reports, Kirby said: “The secretary was interested in the press coverage of it.”
He “asked some questions about it this morning,” Kirby added. “I suspect he’ll be asking more questions about it.”