Moscow: Russia`s foreign minister today accused the United States of encouraging Ukraine to challenge Moscow and heavily weighing in on the European Union.
Speaking in televised remarks, Sergey Lavrov said that "our American colleagues still prefer to push the Ukrainian leadership toward a confrontational path."
He added that chances for settling the Ukrainian crisis would have been higher if it only depended on Russia and Europe.
Lavrov spoke after yesterday`s European Union summit, which decided not to immediately impose new sanctions on Russia for destabilising eastern Ukraine, but gave the Russian government and pro-Russian insurgents there until Monday to take steps to improve the situation.
Ukraine yesterday signed a free-trade pact with the EU, the very deal that a former Ukrainian president dumped under pressure from Moscow in November, fueling huge protests that eventually drove him from power. Moscow responded by annexing the mainly Russian-speaking Crimean Peninsula in March, and a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine erupted the month after, leading to the developments that have brought Russia-West relations to their lowest point since the Cold War times.
The US and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Russian President Vladimir Putin`s inner circle and threatened to impose more crippling sanctions against entire sectors of Russia`s economy if the Kremlin fails to de-escalate the crisis.
The EU leaders yesterday said Russia and the rebels should take steps to ease the violence, including releasing all captives, retreating from border checkpoints, agreeing on a way to verify the cease-fire and launching "substantial negotiations" on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko`s peace plan.
The weeklong cease-fire, which both sides have been accused of violating, expired at 10 pm local time (1900 GMT), but Poroshenko quickly declared its extension until 10 pm local time Monday. He warned, however, that the cease-fire could be terminated in areas where rebels violate it.
A leader of the insurgents, Alexander Borodai, promised to abide by the extended cease-fire after Friday`s troika talks that included a former Ukrainian president who represented the Kiev government, the Russian ambassador and an OSCE envoy.