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US, UK Top Diplomats Reiterate Support for Ukraine's Sovereignty

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) makes remarks as Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond looks on, during a press availability at the State Department in Washington, Oct. 8, 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart, Philip Hammond, have met in Washington, expressing their commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and support for the Ukrainian government’s efforts to implement democratic reforms.

Speaking Wednesday during a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Hammond, Kerry said they had agreed that Russia must withdraw its forces from eastern Ukraine immediately, end its "material support" for separatists there, and meet its commitments under a cease-fire agreement reached last month between Ukraine, Russia and rebel leaders.

The U.S. secretary of state said Russia’s actions have challenged "the most basic principles” of the international system.

“Borders cannot and should not be redrawn at the barrel of the gun and people have a right in their own county, within their sovereign borders, to determine their own future,” Kerry said.

The U.S. and its allies have made it clear they are ready to "do even more to ensure that the international order prevails," he said.

The United States and its European allies have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

Moscow denies direct involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.

‘Most sophisticated sanctions regime’

Asked Tuesday about the sanctions, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Russia’s intervention in Ukraine demanded a response.

“The economic sanctions that were put in place are probably the most sophisticated sanctions regime that has ever been designed,” Lew told the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

The aim of the sanctions, he said, is "to create a path for Russia to step back, for Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, for it to withdraw from either directly or indirectly engaging in military efforts there."

Meanwhile, the lower house of Russia's parliament on Wednesday passed in the first reading a bill authorizing government compensation for those hit by Western sanctions. Members of opposition parties voted in the State Duma almost unanimously against the bill, which must be voted on two more times and can be amended before final approval.

If passed and signed into law by Russia's president, the measure will entitle individuals targeted by property or asset seizures abroad to receive Russian governmental compensation. It will also allow Moscow to seize a property of any foreign citizens, regardless whether they hold diplomatic immunity or not. In the absence of any such property, Moscow could seize the state property of countries that have implemented punitive measures against Russia.