* Lavrov, Kerry to meet in Paris, following Obama-Putin
* West worried by Russian troop buildup near Ukraine
* NATO chief says Crimea "may not be enough" for Putin
(Updates with Lavrov and Kerry to meet)
By Katya Golubkova
MOSCOW, March 29 Russia said on Saturday it had
"no intention" of invading eastern Ukraine, responding to
Western warnings over a military buildup on the border following
Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
The comments by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were followed
by news that he would meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in
Paris on Sunday, as both sides moved to ease tensions in the
worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.
Speaking on Russian television, Lavrov reinforced a message
from President Vladimir Putin that Russia would settle - at
least for now - for control over Crimea despite massing
thousands of troops near Ukraine's eastern border.
"We have absolutely no intention of - or interest in -
crossing Ukraine's borders," Lavrov said.
Putin called U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday to
discuss a U.S. diplomatic proposal, with the West alarmed at the
threat to Ukraine's eastern flank from what U.S. officials say
may be more than 40,000 Russian soldiers.
Lavrov added, however, that Russia was ready to protect the
rights of Russian speakers, referring to what Moscow sees as
threats to the lives of compatriots in eastern Ukraine since
Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was deposed as president in
The West imposed sanctions on Russia, including visa bans
for some of Putin's inner circle, after Moscow annexed Crimea
this month following a referendum on union of the
Russian-majority region with the Russian Federation which the
West said was illegal.
The West has threatened tougher sanctions targeting Russia's
stuttering economy if Moscow sends more troops to Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in an
interview with Germany's Focus magazine published on Saturday,
said the alliance was "extremely worried".
"We view it as a concrete threat to Ukraine and see the
potential for further interventions," said Rasmussen, who is due
to leave the post in October.
"I fear that it is not yet enough for him (Putin). I am
worried that we are not dealing with rational thinking as much
as with emotions, the yearning to rebuild Russia's old sphere of
influence in its immediate neighbourhood."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Lavrov and
Kerry would meet on Sunday in the French capital. They spoke by
phone on Saturday, following up on the Putin-Obama call on
The White House said Obama had told Putin that Russia must
pull back its troops and not move deeper into the ex-Soviet
republic. The Kremlin said Putin had suggested "examining
possible steps the global community can take to help stabilise
Ukraine remains deeply divided over protests that led to
Yanukovich's ousting and many eastern Russian-speaking regions
are sceptical about the policies of the new pro-Western
government in Kiev.
Yanukovich called on Friday for each of the country's
regions to hold a referendum on their status within Ukraine,
instead of the presidential election planned for May 25.
That election is shaping up as a context between former
prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and billionaire confectionary
oligarch Petro Poroshenko, after boxer-turned-politician Vitaly
Klitschko withdrew on Saturday.
Lavrov called for "deep constitutional reform" in Ukraine, a
sprawling country of 46 million people divided between those who
see their future in closer ties with Europe and mainly Russian
speakers in the east who look to former Soviet master Russia.
"Frankly speaking, we don't see any other way for the steady
development of the Ukrainian state apart from as a federation,"
Each region, he said, would have jurisdiction over its
economy, finances, culture, language, education and "external
economic and cultural connections with neighbouring countries or
"Given the proportion of native Russians (in Ukraine) we
propose this and we are sure there is no other way," Lavrov
said, and Russia had briefed Western powers and others on the
There was also a bid for regional devolution within Crimea.
Its Tatar community, an indigenous minority who were persecuted
under Soviet rule and largely boycotted last month's referendum
on joining Russia, want autonomy on the Black Sea peninsula, the
Tatar leader said on Saturday.
(Additional reporting by Alessandra Prentice in Kiev, Gabriela
Baczynska in Crimea, Madeline Chambers in Berlin and Lesley
Wroughton in SHANNON, Ireland, Editing by Matt Robinson and