(Recasts to add background on U.S. lawmakers, comments from
Murphy and Corker)
By Doina Chiacu and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, April 21 The United States'
government said on Monday it will decide "in days" on additional
sanctions if Russia does not take steps to implement an
agreement to ease tensions in Ukraine reached in Geneva last
The steps include publicly calling on pro-Russian
separatists in eastern Ukraine to vacate occupied buildings and
checkpoints, accept an amnesty and address their grievances
politically, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
"If they don't take steps in the coming days, there'll be
consequences," she said at a Monday news briefing. "Obviously,
we would have to make a decision in the matter of - in a matter
of days - if there are going to be consequences for inaction."
Some U.S. lawmakers have been clamoring for President Barack
Obama's administration to impose stiff new sanctions on Russia's
energy industry and major banks to encourage President Vladimir
Putin to withdraw troops from the Ukrainian border and
discourage further Russian incursions into Ukrainian territory.
"I think it's time to move on the next round of sanctions,"
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy told Reuters on Monday,
although he added that he backed giving Moscow two to three days
to implement the Geneva agreement.
"I think it is important to explore diplomatic solutions
when they potentially become available," the Democratic chairman
of the Senate's Europe subcommittee said in a telephone
"The Russians were willing to sit down in Geneva for the
first time across the table from their Ukrainian counterparts, I
think that discussion was worthwhile. I don't think the jury is
fully in on the Geneva agreement," he said.
'GOING TO LOSE EASTERN UKRAINE'
Some members of Congress have made it clear they do not
believe sanctions already in place - such as travel restrictions
on individuals announced by the Obama administration - will stop
"I think we're going to lose eastern Ukraine if we continue
as we are," U.S. Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on NBC television's
"Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Washington and Moscow each put the onus on the other to
ensure tensions are eased in the worst confrontation between
Russia and the West since the Cold War.
"If there's not progress, we remain prepared, along with our
European and G-7 partners, to impose additional costs. So
there'll need to be decisions made in a matter of days," Psaki
In a telephone call on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to
"influence Kiev, not let hotheads there provoke a bloody
conflict, and impel the current Ukrainian leadership to fulfill
its obligations unflaggingly," Russia's Foreign Ministry said.
But Kerry said casting doubt on Ukraine's commitment to the
accord "flies in the face of the facts," according to Psaki.
Ukraine has sent senior representatives to the east with
representatives from the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), put forth an amnesty bill for
separatists to give up public buildings and weapons and called
an Easter pause in military operations, Kerry said.
"He asked that Russia now demonstrate an equal level of
commitment to the Geneva agreement in both its rhetoric and its
actions," Psaki said, such as by sending its own senior
representative to work with the OSCE.
Kerry also asked Russia to join the United States in seeking
the release of Imra Krat, a Ukrainian journalist being held by
pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country, she
(Additional reporting by Steve Gutterman in Moscow and Steve
Holland and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; editing by G Crosse
and; Bill Trott)