Russia says it would retaliate for US sanctions as Kerry visits Kiev
Russia warned the United States from taking unilateral sanctions against its country, while Secretary of State John Kerry visited Ukraine’s capital, Kiev.
"We will have to respond," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. "As always in such situations, provoked by rash and irresponsible actions by Washington, we stress: this is not our choice."
"We have frequently explained to the Americans ... why unilateral sanctions do not fit the standards of civilised relations between states," Lukashevich said.
Lukashevich did not describe any measures Moscow might impose in retaliation but said the Russian response would not necessarily mirror the US sanctions.
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee is consulting the Obama administration on possible measures including visa bans and asset freezes against individuals, suspension of military cooperation, and economic sanctions.
In Kiev, US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Russia's "act of aggression" in Ukraine and said Moscow, which has taken control of the Crimea region, was looking for a pretext to invade more of the country.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Russia's "act of aggression" in Ukraine's Crimea region and said Moscow was looking for a pretext to invade more of the country.
Visiting Kiev to show support for Ukraine's new leaders after Russian forces took control of Crimea, Kerry said there was no evidence to support Moscow's version of events - that Russian speakers are in danger in Ukraine.
"The United States reaffirms our commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity according to international law. We condemn the Russian Federation's act of aggression," Kerry told a news conference in the Ukrainian capital.
"It is clear that Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further," he said. "Russia has talked about Russian-speaking ordinary citizens that are under siege. They are not. And in fact this government has acted remarkably responsibly."
Kerry praised the leaders installed since Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was deposed as president last month.
Criticising the Russian leadership, he said: "It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve."
He added: "What we are looking for here is a responsible way to meet the needs of the parties ... of Ukraine."
During his visit, Kerry announced an economic package and technical assistance for Ukraine.
A senior US administration official said President Barack Obama's administration would work with Congress to approve $1 billion in loan guarantees to help reduce the impact on Ukrainians of proposed energy subsidy cuts as Kiev seeks international financial assistance to avert bankruptcy.
The United States will also send technical experts to Ukraine to advise its central bank and finance ministry on how to deal with the country's economic challenges and help combat corruption, the official said.
The United States will train observers for a presidential election on May 25 to bring the electoral process in line with international standards. A team from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund is in Kiev to assess the state of Ukraine's economy.
The United States has said it will support an IMF-backed lending program to Ukraine. Part of the IMF's lending conditions are likely to include cuts in energy subsidies that are a drain on government resources.