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Crimea crisis: Russia, Ukraine hold first meeting

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has held talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Deshchytsia, for the first time since Russia’s move into Crimea triggered a diplomatic crisis.

Lavrov says Russia is unfazed by the prospect of being expelled from the G8.

Other members of the group of industrialised countries have agreed not to hold a planned summit in Russia.

The move comes as Ukrainian troops are leaving Crimea after Russian forces seized military bases in the region.

Earlier this month, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine after a referendum considered illegal by Kiev and the West.

Lavrov met Deshchytsia, Ukraine’s interim foreign minister, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague on Monday.

“We set forth our vision to establish good national dialogue taking into account all residents of Ukraine,” Lavrov told a news conference.

He also said he saw “no great tragedy” if Moscow was expelled from the G8 group of leading nations over its annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

“If our Western partners think that this format has outlived itself, then so be it. At the very least, we are not trying to cling on to this format,” he told reporters.

The remaining members of the body, who also met on the sidelines of the nuclear summit, agreed that the planned G8 summit in Russia in June would be called off because of Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine.

Instead they will meet as the G7 in Brussels at about the same time.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also met Lavrov on Monday and expressed “strong concern” about the massing of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border, Reuters quoted a senior US state department official as saying.

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