(Adds British Foreign Secretary)
By Lesley Wroughton and William James
LONDON May 15 The United States and its
European allies agreed on Thursday that Russia should face
broader economic and industrial sanctions if the Kremlin meddled
in Ukrainian elections later this month, a U.S. official said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry briefed Germany, France,
Britain and Italy on Washington's thinking on possible sanctions
on some of the Russian economy's largest sectors including
mining, gas, banking, finance and defence, the official added.
The next phase of punitive measures would use "a scalpel
rather than a hammer" and would focus on new investment in those
areas, the official told reporters after Kerry's meeting with
his European counterparts in London.
Ukraine's interim leaders hope elections on May 25 will
bring political stability after five months of upheaval
including Russia's annexation of Crimea and pro-Russian
separatist rebellions in the east.
Washington and the EU and have already imposed several
rounds of sanctions on Russian individuals and some companies,
accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of stoking the eastern
rebellions, a charge Putin has denied.
"All ministers, led by Secretary Kerry, underscored that a
free, fair election across Ukraine, including in the east, on
May 25 is absolutely essential," the senior State Department
official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
"There was broad unity in the room that if the elections are
disrupted and Moscow's hand is behind that, that we need to move
to sectoral sanctions," the official said. "There was no dissent
on that subject."
Kerry told the European powers the sectoral sanctions could
be imposed on Russia without hurting themselves or the broader
global economy, the official said.
"We have been pretty clear in being able to pinpoint and
expose ... when Moscow's hand has been behind past disruptions
so I would guess that would be relatively clear should it
happen," the official added.
Sanctions have already hurt Russia - Moscow's Economy
Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has said the economy will probably
enter recession by the end of the second quarter.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Kremlin's
approach to the Ukrainian elections would determine whether
wider economic and trade sanctions would be applied to Russia.
"We all agreed to continue preparation for these sanctions
while of course urging Russia to stop any actions that prevent
the elections going ahead peacefully," Hague said after meeting
Kerry with counterparts from Germany, France and Italy.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Stephen Addison and