Russia says U.S. backs 'party of war' in Kiev, urges ceasefire

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow accused Washington on Thursday of backing what it called the "party of war" in Kiev and said it was counting on a response from the leadership in Ukraine and rebels in its east to a Kremlin ceasefire plan. "The surge in anti-Russian rhetoric that we have seen exactly when there is a very active effort to seek a political solution shows that the party of war in Kiev has active external support, in this case from the United States," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference after talks with his Kyrgyz counterpart. In contrast, he said, Russia was "doing and will do" everything in its power to secure peace in eastern Ukraine. Lavrov was referring to U.S. President Barack Obama's remarks about NATO keeping the door open for new members. The West has imposed sanctions on Moscow for its actions in Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels rose up in two provinces after Moscow annexed the Crimea peninsula in March. President Vladimir Putin presented a peace plan earlier this week, outlining seven steps that included a prisoner exchange and the creation of a humanitarian corridor for refugees and aid supplies. Lavrov said Moscow was keen to learn what Kiev and the rebels thought about the plan at talks due on Friday in the Belarussian capital Minsk, but made clear that a ceasefire in Ukraine should be the primary goal at this point. "We would like to hear the reaction to this proposal from the two opposing parties, Kiev and the southeast of Ukraine," he said. "We will be ready to hear additional proposals too in order to agree a common position." Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has criticized Putin's plan, saying his real intention was "to destroy Ukraine and restore the Soviet Union". The European Union is considering new sanctions this week which could tighten financial restrictions on Russian companies. Russia has responded to sanctions by banning imports of some Western food. (Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk and Alissa de Carbonnel, editing by Elizabeth Piper)