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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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March 3rd, 2014
05:32 PM ET

Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Russia: There is no neat way to divide Ukraine

(CNN) – Russia released statements of President Vladimir Putin's calls with leaders of Kazakhstan and Belarus Monday.

"The leaders discussed the development of the crisis in Ukraine, which is creating a real threat to the lives and legal interests of the Russian-speaking population, first and foremost in Crimea and the eastern regions of the country," Putin's office said.

This may be the precedent Russia is setting to justify its military incursion into Crimea, southern Ukraine, but mentioning the eastern regions of the country would seem to be setting the stage for perhaps their next move militarily.

"I'm deeply concerned by that, because, you know, these things start in one way and then there are unintended consequences," said former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. "There's a shootout in one city and suddenly you have an action/reaction process that can create new kinds of movements into eastern Ukraine."

One "really important" point that everyone needs to understand is that "the eastern part of Ukraine is not all Russian and Russian-speaking. In fact, it's really divided," said McFaul.

The cities tend to be populated with more ethnic Russians, but the countryside is more ethnically Ukrainian.

That is, says McFaul, there is no neat way to divide this country. "It will be very messy if, God forbid, there is more conflict and greater military conflict in Crimea or eastern Ukraine."

The former diplomat says it is "good news" that the Russian incursion into Ukraine has not yet developed into a military conflict.

"Maybe that gives diplomacy one last chance to try to de-escalate this conflict," said McFaul.

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