Paris (AFP) - Russia must prove "in the next hours" that it is working to help disarm separatist groups in restive eastern Ukraine, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday after a meeting with his French counterpart.
"We are in full agreement that it is critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that they're moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm, to call on them to lay down their weapons and to begin to become part of a legitimate process," he told reporters in Paris.
US and EU leaders have heaped pressure on Russian president Vladimir Putin to help his Western-backed counterpart in Ukraine end a separatist insurgency, as the clock ticks down on a shaky truce.
US President Barack Obama warned late Wednesday that additional sanctions would be in store if Russia does not move swiftly to reduce tensions in eastern Ukraine.
Kerry said US and EU leaders agreed that sanctions needed to be ready.
"But our preference is not to have to be into a sanctions mode. We would like to see a cooperative effort between the United States, Europe and Russia and the Ukrainians."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, meanwhile, hinted at an easing of the situation in Ukraine.
"There is some sort of -- but we must be very careful -- of a de-escalation," he said in English, adding a conversation had taken place Wednesday between the French, German, Russian and Ukrainian leaders.
"There are commitments which have been taken and we hope that it will be implemented today, and in the coming days."