The United States and European diplomats have failed to negotiate a peaceful solution to Ukraine's crisis as Russia's foreign minister refused to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart in Paris.
US Secretary of State John Kerry sought on Wednesday to arrange face-to-face talks between Russia's Sergei Lavrov and Andriy Deshchytsia on the confrontation that started when troops, said by the US to be Russian, appeared in Ukraine's autonomous republic of Crimea.
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"Russia made a choice and we have clearly stated that we believe it is a wrong choice, that is the choice of moving troops to Crimea," said Kerry.
"Russia can now choose to deescalate this situation and we are committed to working with Russia together with our friends and allies in an effort to provide a way for this entire situation to find the road to deescalation."
In an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Deshchytsia said he had hoped to brief Lavrov on a Ukrainian plan to offer Crimea more autonomy while still claiming it within the country's borders. Any vote taken toward autonomy would require international observers to replace armed groups in order to work, he said.
"Our position is to use all the peaceful means, all the diplomatic ways to settle the issue without victims and tragedy - and without taking territory away," Deshchytsia said. "We don't want war with Russia."
After an intense round of diplomacy with Lavrov and several European counterparts in Paris, Kerry said the meetings were "very constructive".
Speaking separately after what he called "a very long day" of discussions on Ukraine, Lavrov said the sides agreed to continue talks in coming days "about how we can help in efforts to normalise the situation and overcome the crisis."
NATO cuts ties with Russia
NATO tried to apply pressure on Moscow in its own talks with Russia in Brussels.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the alliance's secretary-general said ambassadors for the 28 member states decided after a meeting with their Russian counterpart to suspend plans for a joint mission as well as all civilian and military meetings.
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Rasmussen said that because of Russia's military action in the Crimean Peninsula, "the entire range of NATO-Russia cooperation (is) under review."
"Kremlin has declared war not just on Ukraine, not just on Crimea but on whole world. The more time we lose, the more we have to lose," Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former prime minister, told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced it will more than double the number of US fighter jets on a NATO airpatrol mission in the Baltics and do more training with Poland's air force as it strives to reassure allies alarmed by the crisis in Ukraine, officials in Washington said on Wednesday.
On the ground in Ukraine, meanwhile, volatility reigned. A special UN envoy visiting Crimea Robert Serry came under threat by armed men who forced him to leave the region.
And hundreds of demonstrators, many chanting "Russia! Russia!" - stormed a government building in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, spreading concern that turmoil could engulf other Russian-dominated parts of the country
Ukraine's prime minister told the AP in his first interview since taking office that he still feared Russian President Vladimir Putin might attempt more land grabs: "Mr. President," Arseniy Yatsenyuk said, "stop this mess."
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies