U.S. piles pressure on Russia over Ukraine deal

A day after signing the deal, pro-Russian separatists vowed to continue their occupation of public buildings

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The United States urged “full and immediate compliance” on a four-way agreement on Ukraine, warning of new sanctions against Russia if it failed to do so, intensifying its pressure on the country.

The warning came after a deal, struck Thursday between the U.S., EU, Ukraine and Russia in Geneva, seemed to stall due to intransigence of rebels backed by Moscow in the former Soviet Union country.

A day after signing the deal, pro-Russian separatists vowed to continue their occupation of public buildings.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “made clear that the next few days would be a pivotal period for all sides to implement the statement's provisions,” in a phone call with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a senior official at the State Department said.

The White House warned Russia earlier that it was closely watching and assessing if Moscow was honoring the deal aimed at easing tensions in eastern Ukraine. Events in the restive Ukrainian region intensified to dangerous levels, after pro-Russian rebels seized several towns.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice urged Moscow to quickly control the separatist groups and allow Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors into the unstable area.

“We expect and we will be watching whether Russia does or does not uphold its responsibility to use its very considerable influence to restrain and withdraw those irregular militia from the buildings and spaces that they've occupied,” Rice said.

"So we will see, over the coming days, whether Russia upholds its agreement," she added.

Rice’s warning came as Russia angrily reacted to previous U.S. warnings that it could face further sanctions if it did not honor the deal.

As part of the deal, Russia is required to dismantle militia groups and evacuate government buildings seized by them.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also doubted whether Russia would follow through on the deal.

"I will say we're clear-eyed about Russia's record of not implementing steps in the past, so we will see if they do take steps this time," Psaki said.

"If they don't take steps, there will be consequences," she added.

Both Rice and Psaki said the U.S.’s assessment of the situation would be in coming “days,” without confirming a deadline to evaluate Russia’s compliance.

In the meantime, Ukraine vowed Saturday to “take steps to increase transparency and inclusivity and the passage of the amnesty law that will go into effect,” Kerry said.

The top U.S. official had a phone conversation with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and hailed Kiev's "important steps" to implement the agreement.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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