John Kerry has tried to reassure Russia that he is not seeking confrontation over Ukraine but Moscow’s top diplomat, meeting the US Secretary of State in Switzerland, may take a different view as sanctions bite.
Talks with Sergei Lavrov were held on the sidelines of a gathering of foreign ministers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Russia denies Western claims it is giving military support to rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Instead Lavrov portrayed Russian military experts as peacemakers, saying that at the invitation of Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, they are helping parties in the conflict to reach a deal on withdrawing heavy artillery to allow access for OSCE observers.
Kerry said Moscow had failed to live up to its commitments over ceasefire moves but added:
“The United States and countries that support Ukraine’s sovereignty and rights do not seek confrontation.
“It is not our design or desire that we see a Russia that is isolated through its own actions.
“In fact we are convinced that Moscow could rebuild trust and relationships if it simply helps to calm turbulent waters.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini held separate talks with the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers.
Outside the meeting in Basel, Ukrainian demonstrators made their voices heard, urging the OSCE security and rights watchdog, which has a monitoring mission in Ukraine , to do more to help their country.