A senior State Department official, accompanying Kerry to a NATO meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, said he would talk to allies about imposing further sanctions on Russia if pro-Moscow separatists do not cease violence in Ukraine, Censor.NET reports citing Reuters.
Kerry said that Russia could avoid further sanctions by agreeing to steps towards ending backing for the rebels, who seized mainly Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine after protesters toppled Kyiv's pro-Moscow president in February. Russia denies supporting the separatists militarily.
Citing the weakening of the Russian currency, the rouble, and comments by a senior Russian official that the economy will fall into recession in 2015, Kerry said: "Clearly the economy is feeling the impact of these sanctions."
Russia's gross domestic product will probably fall by 0.8 percent next year, hit by low oil prices and sanctions, Russian Deputy Economy Minister Alexei Vedev said, in a dramatic change from a previous forecast of 1.2 percent GDP growth.
"Russia has the opportunity to make a very different choice," said Kerry. "We are prepared, as others are prepared, to sit down to negotiate reasonable ways in which all the parties can agree to very specific steps that can be taken in order to move in a different direction that is available."
According to the Secretary of State, since signing of the Minsk agreements on Sept. 5 Russia "has sen several hundred units of military equipment, including tanks, APCs and artillery to the pro-Russian terrorists in the East of Ukraine," Interfax-Ukraine notes.
The United States and the 28-nation European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia's financial, defense and energy sectors over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and perceived backing of the separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"Russia has not lived up to its promises to end all support for armed separatists, withdraw troops and weapons, release hostages, allow OSCE inspectors to do their jobsб and respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territory," Kerry added.
Still, EU diplomats say there is little appetite among EU states for more sanctions unless there is a further sharp escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. Russia is Europe's leading energy supplier and many EU countries fear that sanctions and Russian reprisals could hurt their own economies.