American and Russian leaders are in talks on a potential trip by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Moscow to discuss the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine, according to a report. A source did not provide an exact date for the proposed Kerry trip, though it could occur “in the coming days or weeks.”
“Talks [on arranging a Kerry visit] have been going on for weeks,” an unnamed diplomatic source told Reuters. Meanwhile, Russian news outlet Kommersant spoke with sources who said Kerry would meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow for two straight days beginning Feb. 4.
Kerry has not traveled to Russia since hostilities began in eastern Ukraine in mid-2014. American and European leaders have consistently accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of providing direct and operational support to pro-Russian separatists fighting against soldiers loyal to the Ukrainian government.
The report came days after Kerry rebuked Russia for its continued support of rebel activity in Ukraine. "We call on Russia to end its support for separatists immediately, close the international border with Ukraine, and withdraw all weapons, fighters and financial backing," he said.
Both the United States and the European Union imposed economic sanctions against Russia over their actions in eastern Ukraine, as well as the Russian annexation of Crimea, an area considered part of Ukraine, in March 2014. Russian leaders have denied participating in the conflict.
European Union leaders voted Thursday to extend existing sanctions until September and target new individuals within Russia for asset freezes and travel bans, the BBC reported. Foreign ministers opted not to institute new sanctions against Moscow. The EU will revisit that decision at a meeting planned for next month, Reuters noted.
The vote occurred at an emergency meeting called after pro-Russian separatists launched a renewed offensive in violation of an existing ceasefire. Ukrainian leaders attributed the deaths of 30 people in the city of Mariupol to rebel shelling.
Andrey Kostin, the chief executive at one of Russia’s top banks, said the renewed sanctions were tantamount to “economic war” against Russia. “Economic war will definitely have negative implications for the Russian economy, but more than that it will have very negative implications for political dialogue and security in Europe,” Kostin told CNBC.