WASHINGTON — Russia has told the United States that it will respect the sovereignty of Ukraine and that military exercises near the Russian-Ukraine border are not a prelude to an intervention, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.
Russia scrambled fighter jets to patrol its border and reportedly gave shelter to Ukraine’s fugitive president. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assured Kerry the buildup was scheduled previously and was unrelated to the recent unrest in Ukraine.
The military movements had unnerved the U.S. because they followed the overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych, who has fled Kiev, the capital, and reportedly is seeking refuge outside Moscow.
Kerry warned Russia this week against a military intervention the former Soviet republic and said it could face a strong response from the West, though he did not specify what that might be.
“We will look to Russia for the choices that it makes in the next days for their confirmation of these statements,” Kerry said at a State Department news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.