Madrid — Russia said Wednesday it has no authority over pro-Moscow forces that have taken de-facto control of the Ukraine's majority-Russian Crimean Peninsula.
A day after US President Barack Obama said Russia was "not fooling anybody" over its role in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted the armed troops were not taking orders from the Kremlin.
"If they are the self-defence forces created by the inhabitants of Crimea, we have no authority over them," Lavrov told a news conference in Madrid after a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.
"They do not receive our orders," he said.
The Russian foreign minister, who left Madrid for a Paris meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry after the conference, said Moscow would not allow bloodshed to erupt in Ukraine.
"We will not allow bloodshed. We will not allow attempts against the lives and wellbeing of those who live in Ukraine and Russian citizens who live in Ukraine," he said.
Ukrainian troops remain blocked inside their barracks in Crimea in the gravest stand-off between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War.
Lavrov's meeting with Kerry will be their first since Ukraine's Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted after three months of pro-European Union protests which left nearly 100 dead.
Fill in your Name and Email Address to receive a Free Newsletter
Russia says no control over pro-Moscow force in Crimea