US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Ambassador to France's residence in Paris, on March 30, 2014, following his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the situation in Ukraine.
John Kerry talks Ukraine with Russia
02:24 - Source: Reuters

Story highlights

Secretary of State Kerry cites defusing tensions and setting up talks as goals

Kerry doesn't mention Crimea by name after meeting with Russian counterpart

Russian troops near the Ukraine border now the main topic

Kerry's bottom line: "No decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine"

Washington CNN  — 

In diplomacy, like in sales, success often depends on making your adversaries believe they proposed the result you wanted.

By that measure, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have closed the sale on annexing Crimea from Ukraine.

On Monday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited the region that Moscow now claims over international protests, while Russia also said it was withdrawing a battalion of infantry troops from the tens of thousands deployed near the border with eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts focus on defusing the immediate threat of armed conflict and setting up a negotiating process, rather than necessarily reversing the Crimean annexation.

Here are some questions and answers on how we got here and what to expect:

What’s the story?

The Ukraine crisis has its roots in the breakup of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago. A country of deep ethnic and cultural divisions, it comprises a more ethnic Russian population in the East and a more ethnic Ukrainian population in the West, including Kiev, the capital.

Months of increasingly violent political protests in Kiev over the government’s reluctance to expanded relations with the European Union culminated in a February 21 agreement that called for constitutional changes and new elections.

Putin says he’s pulling some troops back from Ukrainian border

Moscow responded by sending forces into Ukraine’s formerly Russian region of Crimea, which is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Putin claimed ethnic Russians in Crimea faced oppression and needed Moscow’s protection, a scenario rejected as false by Washington and its European allies.

Despite objections by the Ukrainian government, the United Nations, European nations and the United States, Russia then engineered a Crimean independence referendum that easily passed.