Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides in Moscow March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
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Russia on Saturday pledged it would not invade mainland Ukraine following its seizure of Crimea and said it favoured the ex-Soviet state becoming a federation as a way of defusing the crisis.Tensions have run high after Russian President Vladimir Putin ripped up the post-Soviet order with Moscow's lightning takeover of Crimea from Ukraine, with the United States accusing Russia of massing tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's eastern border. Lavrov said in a major Russian television interview broadcast Saturday that Moscow has absolutely no intention of ordering its armed forces to cross over the Ukrainian border and acknowledged the divisions between Moscow and the West on the crisis are narrowing.Lavrov made clear Russia's priorities for Ukraine were a federalisation which would allow the interests of everyone in the country -- including Russian speakers in the east and south -- to be fully represented.The Ukrainian government this week estimated there were now 100,000 Russian soldiers positioned around Ukraine -- a figure neither confirmed nor denied by Moscow.
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