Diplomats look for ways to defuse Ukraine crisis
PARIS - The building blocks for a possible diplomatic solution in Ukraine have emerged today in Paris -- where top Russian and Western officials have been trying to defuse the crisis over Crimea.
European and Ukrainian diplomats at the meetings have outlined ways that all sides could step back from the brink of a new global conflict.
But a top French diplomat says while Russia is open to international mediation, a major sticking point is the refusal of Russia's foreign minister to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart at those talks.
The diplomat says the elements of a possible solution are a "work in progress." Britain's foreign secretary says a key demand is for Russia's military to pull back to its Black Sea bases. But he's not pressing for a Thursday deadline as European diplomats had initially suggested.
The European Union today is preparing a $15 billion aid package for Ukraine. One analyst says the package creates some "breathing room" that could allow a de-escalation of the crisis.
The EU is also freezing the assets of 18 people held responsible for misappropriating government money in Ukraine, which has been on the verge of economic collapse.