Ukraine crisis: Vitaly Klitschko pulls out of presidential race as Russia says it has 'no intention' of invasion into east of country

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rules out feared invasion

Russia's foreign minister has claimed Moscow has “absolutely no intention” of ordering its armed forces to cross the Ukrainian border amid growing fears of an invasion.

Sergey Lavrov appeared to rule out a move into eastern Ukraine following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“We have absolutely no intention and no interests in crossing the Ukrainian border,” he told Russian state television on Saturday.

"We [Russia and the West] are getting closer in our positions," he added, saying recent contacts had shown the outlines of a "possible joint initiative which could be presented to our Ukrainian colleagues".

Mr Lavrov will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris on Sunday, as both sides move to ease tensions in what has been called the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.

The news came after Barack Obama urged Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops from near the Ukraine border, in the first direct contact between the two leaders since takeover of Crimea.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart in Moscow on January 17, 2014. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that Damascus is prepared to exchange prisoners with the rebel camp and would take swift steps towards doing so as Russia launched a fresh round of talks ahead of peace talks in Switzerland. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.. The White House said that Mr Obama had urged the Russian President in a telephone call to ease tensions by removing soldiers and respond to proposals for a diplomatic solution put forward by the US.

The Kremlin said Mr Putin had suggested "examining possible steps the global community can take to help stabilise the situation" and said the foreign ministers of the two countries would hold discussions.

Tougher sanctions could be imposed on Russia on top of visa bans for some of Mr Putin's inner circle.

The news came as a former boxer who was tipped for victory in the Ukrainian presidential race pulled out of the election.

Vitaly Klitschko has instead thrown his weight behind Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire confectionary oligarch hailed as one of the most influential people in Ukrainian politics.

His withdrawal sets up a contest between the man known as the “ Chocolate King” and Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister, on 25 May.

Ukrainian lawmaker Petro Poroshenko speaks with members and supporters of the 'Right sector' political party during their rally near the Ukrainian Parliament building in Kiev, Ukraine Ukrainian lawmaker Petro Poroshenko speaks with members and supporters of the 'Right sector' political party during their rally near the Ukrainian Parliament building in Kiev, Ukraine Mr Poroshenko, 48, confirmed his candidacy late on Friday but several opinions polls already had him in the lead even before he said he would run to succeed ousted president Viktor Yanukovich.

He was an early and influential supporter of the popular uprising that toppled Mr Yanukovich in February, three months after he spurned a deal on closer ties with the European Union, sparking protests across the country.

Mr Poroshenko’s pledges include strengthening Ukraine’s armed forces and protecting its borders.

”We need to build a new, efficient and modern Ukrainian army, which will defend the sovereignty and integrity of our country,“ Interfax news agency quoted him as saying in Vinnitsa.

Mr Klitschko told a meeting of his UDAR (Punch) party, urged supporters to back Mr Poroshenko and announced he would run instead for mayor of Kiev.

”The only chance of winning is to nominate one candidate from the democratic forces,“ he said.

Ukrainians will vote under the shadow of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Black Sea Crimea peninsula.

Additional reporting by Reuters

READ MORE:
  'Russia threatened countries ahead of vote'
Ukraine crisis: Putin calls Obama to discuss situation as Russia positions 40,000 troops along border
Ukraine crisis: Obama warns Russia 'must pull back troops' from the Ukraine border
Ukraine crisis: Crimea's dolphin army to be taken over by Putin
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Operations Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently recruiting for an Operati...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, Security Cleared

£100 - £110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Ham...

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Junior Developer- CSS, HMTL, Bootstrap

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz