Washington: The United States on Wednesday insisted Ukraine has the right to defend its territory, but voiced hopes a fragile ceasefire would hold, as Kiev prepared for fresh fighting in the east.
Washington also renewed warnings that it was ready to work with its allies in Europe to slap more sanctions on Russia and pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine if there is no resolution to months of upheaval.
"What we`ve seen is ... ongoing, continuous, blatant violations of the Minsk protocol by Russia and its proxies," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, referring to a September 5 deal laying out a truce between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east.
The two-month ceasefire has stopped much frontline fighting but not shelling at strategic flashpoints.
And the US and NATO have warned this week of columns of Russian-supplied tanks, troops and weapons moving into eastern Ukrainian territory in violation of the Minsk deal.
"Our preference would be to see a ceasefire continue," she stressed, adding "it remains the case that Ukraine has the right to defend itself and its territory."
Amid growing concerns about the tensions in eastern Ukraine, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday ruled out imposing new sanctions on Moscow,
But she said the EU was considering adding pro-Russian separatists to existing sanction lists imposed on Moscow.
Psaki suggested Washington was also working along those lines saying the EU and US was looking at "how we can jointly impose more costs on Russia for its unacceptable behavior."
"We and our allies and partners would be prepared to broaden and deepen existing sanctions," she said told reporters.
"Every additional aggressive action, it increases our focus and increases our level of discussion."