- Russia's foreign ministry accuses the U.S. of again escalating the crisis in Ukraine
- This comes after new sanctions were levied against Russia for its actions in Ukraine
- Russia's ministry says it won't act to suit U.S. interests; urges mutual respect
- The U.S. accuses Russia of aiding rebels in eastern Ukraine; Moscow denies this
Russia lashed out Friday against the latest round of sanctions over its involvement in Ukraine, accusing the United States of once again escalating the crisis -- undermining the chances for peace there as well as the greater quest for "global stability."
This followed U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement Thursday that, in coordination with the European Union, "we will intensify our coordinated sanctions on Russia in response to its illegal actions in Ukraine."
The United States and its allies, chief among them Ukraine's Kiev-based government, accuse Russia of implicitly and explicitly supporting separatists claiming territory and battling the Ukrainian military in the European nation's east and south. Moscow has voiced moral support for the rebels but denied any direct involvement, including countering NATO and others' claims that its forces have entered Ukraine and fired on Ukraine's military.
Russia's foreign ministry issued a statement Friday responding to the latest sanctions, which it called "the latest hostile step on the confrontational course of the American administration."
The ministry claimed Washington "is focusing on an escalation of the Ukrainian conflict" rather than a peaceful resolution. Levying sanctions against Moscow is counterproductive, the Russian government added, claiming they hurt American businesses and compromise international goodwill to address common issues like terrorism and drug trafficking.
And sanctions won't spur Russia to change its policy, according to the foreign ministry.
"We are not going to act in order to please the United States' geopolitical ambitions and the calculations of those overseas politicians who are trying to use a 'manageable Ukraine' to restrain Russia," the ministry said.
The foreign ministry didn't respond back with counter-sanctions against Washington, which it characterized as "a last-ditch measure." Instead, it said it is "leaving the door open to constructive and honest bilateral cooperation, including working together to tackle the Ukrainian crisis if the U.S. administration is willing."
"Washington needs to recognize: only respect for each other's interest can help us find a solution to the Ukrainian crisis that suits everyone," the Russian ministry said.
New sanctions despite ceasefire
For months, Russia and the West have been at odds over Ukraine -- which continues to simmer with tension, despite a fragile, recently agreed-upon ceasefire.
U.S. officials and their allies have not dispatched troops into Ukraine to help their allies there; in fact, Obama has ruled out such direct intervention. Instead, they have tried to press the issue diplomatically and through sanctions targeting Russian citizens, officials and industries.
Their rationale is to compel the Kremlin to stop fueling, in their view, the crisis in Ukraine. That's even after Russian President Vladimir Putin played a role in brokering a ceasefire signed Friday after talks in Minsk, Belarus, between representatives of Ukraine, the rebels and Russia.
Speaking about the new sanctions, Obama said Thursday, "We are implementing these new measures in light of Russia's actions to further destabilize Ukraine over the last month, including through the presence of heavily armed Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.
"We are watching closely developments since the announcement of the ceasefire and agreement in Minsk, but we have yet to see conclusive evidence that Russia has ceased its efforts to destabilize Ukraine."
A NATO military officer said Thursday that Russia has about 1,000 troops inside eastern Ukraine, down from a significantly higher number in recent weeks.
NATO also sees 20,000 more Russian troops aligned along the border, according to the NATO office, who was not named according to standard practice in the organization.