Step back or face new sanctions, US tells Russia

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KIEV  (AFP) – A senior US diplomat demanded on Thursday that Russia de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and pull back its forces or else face more sanctions its absorption of Crimea.

Speaking in Kiev, Under Secretary of State for Politic Affairs Wendy Sherman also said the United States was considering a request for military aid from Ukraine’s interim government.

“I hope we can get Russia to talk,” she told reporters after touring the square where nearly 90 people were killed during pro-European protests last month before the fall of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych.

“Russia needs to de-escalate and move its forces back so that Ukraine is one, sovereign territory.”

The appeal came as Ukraine’s UN ambassador in Geneva warned there were signs Moscow was preparing a large-scale assault in southern and eastern parts of the crisis-hit country.

“There are indications that Russia is braced to unleash a full-blown intervention on Ukraine’s east and south,” said Yurii Klymenko.

“Ukraine is on the highest alert to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all means,” he told reporters, adding Kiev still hoped the UN could ease the crisis.

Asked if Washington was ready to offer Kiev military aid, Sherman said that US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel “has had conversations with his counterparts here”.

“We are considering what has been asked of us and I’m sure decisions will be taken soon,” she told a news conference in the Ukrainian capital.

“We have always continued to say to Russia that a diplomatic track is open to them.

“We hope that they will understand that they will continue to be further isolated if they continue aggressive acts.”

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