Secretary of State John Kerry says Russia "has not taken a single concrete step" to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, and he is warning that Moscow's refusal to rein in armed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine will be "an expensive mistake."
Kerry spoke late Thursday in Washington. In a blistering critique, he said Moscow has failed to uphold the four-party agreement it signed last week to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine. He also accused Kremlin-backed television of pushing President Vladimir Putin's version of events in Ukraine, which he called Putin's "fantasy."
Kerry spoke a short while after Russia called on the United States to force Ukraine to halt its ongoing military crackdown on armed pro-Russian separatists who are occupying buildings in eastern Ukraine. Moscow accused the Kyiv government of deploying military units and ultra-nationalist paramilitary units against the largely Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine.
A Foreign Ministry statement referred to Ukrainian authorities as "under the patronage of the United States." It also said the situation demands "urgent action" by Washington to ensure the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the region.
Separately, at the United Nations, diplomats say Russia has recalled its ambassador to Moscow for emergency consultations.
The Russian Foreign Ministry statement referred to Ukrainian authorities as "under the patronage of the United States." It also said the situation demands "urgent action" by Washington to ensure the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the region.
The flurry of diplomatic exchanges capped a day of rising tensions along the Ukraine-Russian border, where a huge Russian military force is gathered. A Ukrainian diplomat at the United Nations told VOA that Moscow has doubled its military presence on the border to about 80,000 troops.
Russia ordered that force into new maneuvers Thursday, after fighting between Ukrainian security forces and armed pro-Russian separatists left as many as five militants dead in the flashpoint eastern city of Slovyansk. President Putin called the Ukrainian push against the separatists a "crime."
Ukraine earlier this week relaunched what it is calling "anti-terrorist" operations against separatists in about a dozen eastern cities. The separatists are demanding a referendum on whether to split with Ukraine and join Russia.
President Barack Obama, speaking to reporters earlier Thursday in Tokyo, said Russia is not abiding by last week's Geneva agreement. He said he is not hopeful that Moscow will cooperate to ease regional tensions. That deal, approved by envoys from Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union was aimed at defusing the crisis.