Washington: The United States has welcomed the European Union's decision to impose fresh sanctions on Russia if it continues to escalate the conflict in Ukraine, giving it a week's time to dissipate the tensions.
"We welcome the European Council's consensus today to show strong support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and to prepare further sanctions for consideration in coming days," White House National Security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said yesterday in a statement.
"We are working closely with the EU and other partners to hold Russia accountable for its illegal actions in Ukraine, including through additional economic sanctions," she added.
Expressing US support for Ukraine, Hayden said, "We call on Russia to immediately remove its military, including troops and equipment, from Ukraine and end its illicit support to the separatists."
EU had threatened to impose fresh trade sanctions on Russia after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited Brussels yesterday and urged the council members to slap tougher sanctions on its eastern neighbour for its "military aggression and terror".
Poroshenko warned of an imminent "full-scale war" between the two countries if Russia continue with its support to the pro-Moscow rebels in Eastern Ukraine, amid fears that an escalated armed conflict might spill over in other parts of Europe as well.
"Thousands of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine," Poroshenko told reporters, "There is a very high risk not only for peace and stability for Ukraine but for the whole peace and stability of Europe."
Ukraine accused Russia last week of "invasion by stealth" by sending in regular armored troops to turn the tide in the five month old conflict and break the siege by Ukrainian forces of two rebel controlled cities of Donetsk and Luhansk farther north.
NATO warned Thursday that about 1,000 Russian troops are fighting inside Ukraine and well over 20,000 have been amassed near the border.
Russia has denied helping the insurgents and rubbished reports of direct military involvement in the uprising in the east of the country.