US and Europe Attempt to Strengthen Position in Crimean Crisis

Top diplomats look to diffuse tension as Russia's Black Sea fleet prevents Ukrainian ships from leaving port.
3:00 | 03/05/14

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Transcript for US and Europe Attempt to Strengthen Position in Crimean Crisis
This is a special room. I'm Michelle Franzen in new York and this is an ABC news digital special report. Top diplomats from Ukraine Russia the United States and Britain are gathered today in Paris. Working and it wants to strengthen their positions in the -- -- crisis. And defuse it all as Russian warships lurk on the Black Sea coast. ABC's Alex -- card is there and here's his report. The crisis on the Crimean peninsula now also at C. These two Ukrainian warships -- -- blocked from leaving port by Russian ships based here as part of the Black Sea fleet. Ukraine has accused Russia demanding the surrender of these anti submarine and command ships they have refused they're Ukrainian flags still waiting. That is a huge Russian naval support -- blocking the narrow -- to Sevastopol port we count at least three Russian ships. Now not letting anyone in -- more out. -- is believed to be Russian continued Wednesday to try to force the surrender of Ukrainian bases in Crimea. Helped by local Russian men. But Russia today continued to deny that these shadowy forces are there's -- -- -- we do not have any power over them claimed Russia's foreign minister. They do not listen to our orders -- Russia says it has the right to defend its citizens in Crimea while the US and its allies accuse Russia invading Ukraine and are demanding the withdrawal of their. Forces if Russia does not choose to -- yes. Our partners will have absolutely no choice. But to join us to continue to expand upon steps we have taken in recent days. In order to isolate Russia. All diplomatic hands are now on deck -- secretary of state John Kerry in Paris today for meetings with European Russian and Ukrainian officials. But Russia has shown no sign of backing down. The international outcry doing nothing to deter Russia's takeover of Crimea now all but complete. Alex -- -- ABC news Sevastopol Crimea. And we are joined now from the State Department with. ABC's Ellie Weinberg -- thank you lots of sounded very today but does -- signify an imminent end to this crisis. -- Michelle there's a lot of talk going on today and there's a lot of talking about. More -- talking the EU in the US. Both want Ukraine to sit down at the table with Russia but Russia has so far not indicated -- all. That they're willing to do that we subplot in -- -- yesterday give a long ranging press conference. Where he denied that there was even any troop presence in Crimea so. Not only is there a difference in how to resolve the situation there's a difference even in the assessment on what's going on in the -- on the ground. In Ukraine so these parties are by all indications still that. Very far apart Michelle let's talk about a little bit what's -- plane out of the last few hours the united nations special envoy was held up upon arriving in Crimea today. Not kidnapped -- the UN but also not allowed to move freely Samantha Power the American ambassador to the UN tweet it. Asking why is it that an unarmed mediator representing the UN Secretary General is stopped and seriously threatened by armed forces. -- what is the status now. We're hearing that UN special envoy Robert -- is actually leaving the country now the State Department could not confirm those reports during today's briefing. But by all accounts and we do have video Robert -- being held up. By those screaming. Crowds outside of a coffee shop so obviously the situation is very grave there. And nobody could assure his safety which is why he is likely leaving. Which underscores just how unstable the situation in Crimea is Michelle. -- again a very long day in Paris it began with out Russia's foreign minister in the room -- secretary of state John Kerry laying out the legal case. Against Russia's actions in Ukraine. -- -- -- -- Refrain from the threat or use force. Against the terror for a charity. As we'll ever -- used against you. Group's charter. All those. Hussein tomorrow's. This. Coroner's principal. -- -- -- To refrain from acting out. So this is coordinating. Yes. -- it's. There are very. People. Just this you. -- -- Thank you all very much. Moments later carries British counterpart William Hague followed suit. -- it is. Next we'll -- Yeah. News we will let ever been. Ring -- Alley as we just heard this 1994. Deal in which Ukraine traded its nuclear weapons for promise that Russia would respect its border. It's pretty clear how -- the Russians defending themselves against charges they violated this deal. Well the Russians are saying that in fact. There's no deal that they're violating they're saying that. Their only involved in the situation to try to. We -- Russian president Vladimir Putin in his press conference yesterday. Flatly denied that he even had any troops in Crimea to begin -- it. But he added that if in fact he was going to send in troops or other assets to the region. It would only be for the protection of the Russian people. By the request. Victory on -- Kovacs who was the president of Ukraine and who Vladimir Putin's still refers to as being legitimate. President of Ukraine so what he's doing is justifying these actions by saying that he's being requested by the what he calls -- legitimate president of the Ukraine. To defend the people of Crimea -- And you know since we've had some of these meetings Russian's foreign minister has been a presence in Paris he has been talking officially and in so called -- summit. What if anything has come of those conversations. Not so much that we know -- so far Michelle we will see the secretary is expected to address the meetings he's had with the Russian foreign minister Lavrov so far. Any minute now we do know about the relationship between Kerry and Lavrov that it as a sort of threaten me dynamic. They have known each other for a very long time but their record as of late on diplomatic issues has been mixed they've worked together on Syria on a host of other different issues. Where the Russians have not exactly been the most helpful partners so. Despite their long relationship. And the way they -- seems to be leveraging that relationship. It's really not clear that he's making any headway in terms of getting through to the rush it to -- change their behavior in any significant way Michelle. Ellie Weinberg at the State Department thank you we know you'll be watching this closely. I want to go now to the Pentagon where Louis Martinez has been monitoring also a busy day for top defense officials. -- -- like in Paris some tense exchanges today on Capitol Hill where top defense officials have been getting in an earful from senators. Leading the way Arizona John Arizona's John McCain here's his exchange with an old -- secretary of defense Chuck Hagel. It is widely reported in the media today. That our intelligence committee sources did not. Predict that. The Russian invasion would take place -- -- -- with your intelligence sources as well. Well I'm not gonna get a new intelligence matters here and open hearing. Senator but. I'm I'm and asked for intelligence matters I'm just want to know whether you were made aware of this threat that. That it was gonna take place I don't well classified that would be -- senators are noted I was at NATO last week and there was a NATO Ukraine commission meeting. And early last week we were made well aware of this threat. So -- again despite -- the media reports. Our intelligence. Sources. Predicted that lab -- would invade -- As I said I don't get into specifics. An open hearing but. If you would like a briefing your staff on the specifics of your question but commenting on news reports well saying that -- -- news reports and news reports but that I just Amy -- internationally acknowledges self. -- -- In other words the fact is the secretary. It was not predicted by our intelligence and -- charity from well known which is another massive failure because of our. Misreading. Total misreading of the intentions. Of Vladimir Putin told her I said that we were me finish my statement please and that is that. That mr. Putin was not going to see Sampras -- -- go into the hands of a government it was not his client. -- that that's just. A fact. Louis we've heard this criticism a lot is there anything the US could have done if they knew Russia was going to target Crimea. We heard secretary Adolor -- talking about how this was not really a surprise that the Russians. -- interested in what was going on in the Ukraine. I -- talking about how he had. Spoken with the two previous Ukrainian defense ministers in the buildup to what happened -- -- -- which is departure. And then when the Crimea situation occurred he'd it was a reach out to it's his counterpart -- mr. -- do. This weekend. So the Pentagon has been monitoring what has been occurring in that. With the Ukraine. Ever since Yanukovych -- departure but of course it's difficult for them to assess. Precisely at that at certain times what was going on you recall the last Friday when the initial reports came in. That there is an inflow of Russian aircraft into some military bases on Crimea peninsula. Putting on officials are saying we cannot provide an assessment -- event were aware of what's going on. But we can't provide an assessment at this time the -- goes to what McCain is talking about here because -- -- -- year. The news report he's talking about says that there is this the CIA had one idea. The military intelligence had a different idea what was going on with regards this situation in Crimea. But obviously this has been on the radar I hear it depending on and for all of the Obama administration's national security folks. Since the deterioration security. Back to -- -- in Ukraine. Let's set the -- a little bit in the Ukraine for a moment new clashes today in the mostly pro Russian east these images coming out -- Don't ask is there any suggestion that the Russian government is encouraging the unrest there. We've heard senior officials say he -- to the president himself talking about how this has been an escalation that's. And really motivated not from the Russians. You've heard and talk about so called. That terminology that that the Russians themselves say that they're going in there to protect Russian interest -- -- -- That -- the population of ethnic Russians in eastern. Part of Ukraine and in Crimea peninsula. That's who they're trying to protect -- you -- you hear the president talking about how. This this is not based on reality yesterday he talked about president couldn't. I can he -- may have different lawyers who are interpreting what internationalize really about. So there's a lot of skepticism on the part of American officials about what the Russians are saying about what their motivations offering having gone inside. Crimea now the concern is that yesterday -- couldn't say that he reserved the right. To go into eastern Ukraine is well he said he didn't have any plans at that point. But that of course is batteries major concerns here in the US -- there is -- if if they go in because that would be seen as a major escalation. And that's something that already I think NATO has warned about. You know as -- Smart -- reported in this piece there are Russian ships patrol in the Crimea coast essentially -- -- That massive port is this -- in Washington as an escalation at all. Well it's it's a continuation of the movements that we initially -- last Friday. -- last -- we heard about the planes coming and we also heard that there are ships coming in from other black seaports from the Russian side. And there is there have been a lot of conflicting information about exactly what the Ukrainian ship movements are going on there because their -- And that some ships were able to -- Sevastopol and -- to it SO which is also in the Ukraine. Is so is a lot of conflicting information about what exactly the Russian Navy is doing. And that's hardly -- -- ever hearing here from officials. Because they're trying to get a good grasp of what the situation is both on the ground and on the water -- And that there's a lot of things going on that there really are not clear American officials. What is the path here to decide if Russians have indeed broken 1994. Budapest agreement is there anything compelling that the United States NATO or the UN -- -- to enforce it. -- What's dangerous thing about that agreement is that it's in the -- -- done unilaterally between the United States Russia. And -- Ukraine and it's very interesting because there's been some disagreement. As to whether it is a legally binding document. In terms of what to the commitments are. But from the United States this it does if there is a violation of that agreement does that mean that the United States then has to preserve the integrity. Territorial integrity of Ukraine. On that would be a major escalation and there's been some doubt as to what -- document actually means. Obviously it's clear what the Russians think that they think -- you heard -- say that they're operating within. The limits of that declaration. But obviously the United States has a very different. Thinking about that they call this -- an incursion and intervention. Part of the Russians and they think it's totally beyond the spirit of not only that declaration but other agreements that allow the Russians to have military forces on the Crimea peninsula. And NATO Secretary General just spoke a few moments ago about the actions that NATO is taking against Russia let's listen to that. Russia continues to violates Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. And each film international commitments. So NATO decided today. To take an -- of immediate steps. We have suspended its the planning far -- first. NATO Russia joint mission. The maritime -- -- for the US shaped -- right. Which would -- -- rights as serious. Chemical weapons. And let me stress this will not affect the destruction of chemical weapons brought Russia -- not being brought. India S court of the USMR. We have -- decide it's. That's no staff -- -- civilian or military meetings with -- -- take place for now. We have -- the entire range off NATO Russia cooperation. Under review. NATO foreign ministers would -- take decisions -- on base in early April. Now -- sound like some real consequences finally being put in the place against Russia are they. They are actually showed is that they ship that he's talking about his CK parade this is the American vessel that once on the Syrian chemical weapons our borders and -- destroyed. How those chemical weapons and. The fact that the United States and Russian warships were going to be involved in the protection. That -- -- C was seen as another step forward in the US several military relationship with Russia now that's not going to happen. The other things that you heard him talk about there in terms of joint cooperation with the Russians. That that has been evolving ever -- -- the end of the Cold War. -- trying to establish a good report with NATO its former antagonists and when during a Warsaw pact days. But. These are alleged said the first concrete steps that NATO can take. -- -- but on the face and on the whole there's very little they can do. So used to -- may be seen is cosmetic though they are the first concrete steps. Politically diplomatically militarily we are keeping an eye on this back in DC general Martin Dempsey the chairman of the joint Joint Chiefs of Staff. Was also on the hill the day here's his assessment. Of America's place in the region. Over the past several days I've spoken with most of my NATO counterparts in particular those in the baltics and in Eastern Europe. Understandably they are concerned they seek our insurance for their security. During our conversations -- committed to developing options to provide those assurances and to deter further Russian aggression. We agreed that together -- help shape a -- back to the sovereignty and security for all the people of the Ukraine. Simply put the allies stand together. Now -- how important is it for the Pentagon to convince those neighboring states that they believed that the US has -- back. It's very important because obviously you have. That Baltic States to join NATO about 1015 years ago they're seen as key members because there on the border with Russia. And those countries join NATO because they wanted NATO's protection. This is a key time where those nations see that the threats the Crimea is a threat to them. Because they feel if it happens -- and Russia isn't stopped there but potentially they could be next dimension and eventually down the road. So the United States has to back up its commitments and later secretary hagel announced that we would be ramping up our training with Poland. In terms of -- boosting the -- An aviation component that we have there's a very small number but -- on the senate sixteenths -- for training and so they're trying to ramp that up and see what can be done in short order. And also with the US is going to boost the number of aircraft. That are going to be participating in what's called the NATO air patrols for the Baltic States that -- -- actually based in the senior right now. -- so that is a message to the Baltic States that we have your back. The NATO -- lines right now has to be firm and you heard from -- comments right there that they are united in this. And again we've been talking about how their options are limited because the skating but. They are doing what they canned and -- one of those things is sending strong signals to those central European and eastern European and members of NATO. That the alliance is united and the United States has their back. And then -- one last question what is the level of interaction between State Department officials many of them in Paris today. And defense officials who could be called into action at a moment's notice. Obviously close interactions going on between the State Department and the Pentagon. This is rapidly developing situation. Hour by hour I mean we're we're hearing new things that make you wonder -- -- this situation is going to go. The United States obviously talking about the escalation but the Russians aren't don't they don't seem to be paying heed to those warnings -- from the US and other allies. So it's. -- has to -- -- strong level of coordination on this. And that's evident with Kerry and Cagle and -- their comments are completely in unison along with the White House. ABC's -- Martinez at the Pentagon thank you as always. This has been an ABC news digital special report for all the latest in this rapidly developing story as well as secretary. State John Kerry speaking from -- stay right here on abcnews.com. It's been an ABC news digital special report. I'm Michelle --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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