WASHINGTON, April 8 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday morning concerning the growing instability in eastern Ukraine, and to express his concern that Russia's hand was involved in destabilization efforts.
"... the Secretary noted the Ukrainian Government’s assertion that this appeared to be a carefully orchestrated campaign with Russian support. He noted in particular the recent arrests of Russian intelligence operatives working in Ukraine. He noted that Ukrainian Government leaders are en route to all these cities today to try to negotiate evacuation of government buildings and a de-escalation of tensions. He called on Russia to publicly disavow the activities of separatists, saboteurs, and provocateurs, calling for de-escalation and dialogue, and called on all parties to refrain from agitation in Ukraine."
Psaki referred to "strong evidence" indicating that separatists involved in demonstrations and government building seizures in eastern Ukraine "were paid and were not local residents." That evidence, she said, "has raised significant concerns for us" and that "if Russian forces move into eastern Ukraine either overtly or covertly, this would be a very serious escalation."
Should Russia continue to encourage destabilization in eastern Ukraine, Russia "will incur further costs," Kerry warned Lavrov during their phone call. Psaki declined to comment on what those costs might be.
In an attempt to foster dialogue and encourage de-escalation, Kerry plans to join the foreign ministers from the European Union member states, Russia, and Ukraine for direct talks "within the next 10 days," Psaki announced Monday. The focus of their meeting will be on de-escalation of the Ukrainian crisis.
Kerry also appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday to defend diplomatic efforts with Russia.