Russia has no control over pro-Moscow force in Crimea: Lavrov

Russia has no control over pro-Moscow force in Crimea: Lavrov

MADRID - Agence France-Presse
Russia has no control over pro-Moscow force in Crimea: Lavrov

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a press conference with Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Manuel Garcia-Margallo (not pictured) in Madrid, March 5. AP photo

Russia said March 5 it has no authority over pro-Moscow forces that have taken de-facto control of the Ukraine's majority-Russian Crimean Peninsula.

"If they are the self-defence forces created by the inhabitants of Crimea, we have no authority over them," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference in Madrid after a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

"They do not receive our orders," he added.

His statements came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama said Russia was "not fooling anybody" over its role in Ukraine, Lavrov insisted the armed troops were not taking orders from the Kremlin.

Prior to leaving Madrid for a Paris meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after the conference, Lavrov said Moscow would not allow bloodshed to erupt in Ukraine.

"We will not allow bloodshed. We will not allow attempts against the lives and wellbeing of those who live in Ukraine and Russian citizens who live in Ukraine," he said.

Lavrov's meeting with Kerry will be their first since Ukraine's Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted after three months of pro-European Union protests which left nearly 100 dead.

Russia accused of seizing missile defense units

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defence Ministry accused Russian forces of partly seizing two Ukrainian missile defence units in Crimea.

At one base in Cape Fiolent, near the city of Sevastopol in southern Crimea, Russian soldiers hold some parts of the base although the missile depot remains in Ukrainian hands, Volodymyr Bova, a defence ministry spokesman in the disputed Black Sea peninsula, told AFP. 

Ukrainian soldiers still held the command post and control centre there, said another spokesman for the defence ministry in Kiev, Oleksey Mazepa. The takeovers seemed to have occurred without any violence, officials said.

Some 20 Russian soldiers, backed by hundreds of pro-Moscow forces, had already tried to occupy the Evpatoria base on March 4 evening, leading to some skirmishes although no shots were fired.

'We don't want to fight Russia': Ukrainian FM

For his part, Ukraine's interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya played down the prospect of a full-blown conflict with Russia ahead of potentially crucial talks on the Crimea crisis.

We want to keep good dialogue, good relations with the Russian people," Ukraine's interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said after meeting his French counterpart Laurent Fabius in Paris.

 "We want to settle this conflict peacefully. We don't want to fight with Russia."

Fabius added: "The position of France, which is shared by Germany and others, is to be very firm with Mr Putin, on the one hand, and, on the other, to move towards dialogue.

"We are not going to declare war on the Russians but what they are doing is unacceptable. It is the invasion of one country by another," the French minister said.

Deshchytsya is hoping to have a face-to-face meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is due here later in the day.