THE STATE DEPARTMENT— Secretary of State John Kerry says Russia is "stoking instability" in Ukraine, and the Obama administration will impose additional sanctions against Moscow if it does not keep promises made last week to help de-escalate the crisis.
Kerry says the world has rightly judged that authorities in Kyiv are working in good faith to de-escalate the crisis, while Moscow "has put its faith in distraction, deception and destabilization."
"In plain sight, Russia continues to fund, coordinate and fuel a heavily armed separatist movement in Donetsk. Meanwhile, Russian leaders are making increasingly outrageous claims to justify their action," said Kerry.
But Russian officials say they have nothing to do with the violence, and believe sanctions will have no impact on the situation in Ukraine.
The head of Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, Alexei Pushkov, says Russia has never and will never interfere directly in Ukrainian affairs.
Pushkov told a news conference in Moscow that the European Union, the United States and former Ukrainian opposition parties should be held responsible for the current chaos.
Fighting between Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russia militants in eastern Ukraine has left at least five militants dead, with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling it a "crime" and threatening “consequences.”
Ukraine's Interior Ministry said Thursday that its forces, together with army units, had killed five pro-Russia militants and destroyed three of their checkpoints in the eastern city of Slovyansk.
In an interview with VOA, Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, says it is time for tougher sanctions against Russia for its interference in Ukraine.
"Naturally, we expect that the reaction of the democratic world will be solid, and the action could be done, including the serious economic sanctions, including the political sanctions," said Sergeyev.
Speaking to reporters at the State Department, Kerry said if Russia continues to destabilize Ukraine, "it will not just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake."
"President Putin and Russia face a choice. If Russia chooses the path of de-escalation, the international community, all of us, will welcome it. If Russia does not, the world will make sure that the costs for Russia will only grow," said Kerry.
But Duma chief Pushkov says sanctions are a mistake. Sanctions he says will bring huge losses not only to Russia, but also to European countries that have close economic and trade cooperation with Russia. What's more, he says, sanctions cannot help resolve the crisis in Ukraine.