WASHINGTON, March 14 (Xinhua) -- The White House said on Friday that Russia's refusal to take steps to de-escalate the tensions in Ukraine's autonomous region of Crimea was "regrettable," threatening "additional costs" for Moscow by the U.S. and its European allies.
Spokesman Jay Carney made the remarks after six-hour talks in London between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov failed to iron out differences over Ukraine, as the Russian minister said his country would respect " the will of the people of Crimea" in a Sunday vote on breakaway from Ukraine.
Washington and its allies have denounced the referendum as illegitimate and one running contrary to the international law and Ukraine's constitution. Kerry on Thursday threatened "a very serious series of steps" with the European Union depending on Russia's response to the results.
"We have obviously not gotten to a situation where Russia has chosen to de-escalate, where Russia has chosen a path of resolving this situation and through diplomacy," Carney said. "That is regrettable."
Kerry told reporters in London that Lavrov made it clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin "is not prepared to make any decision regarding Ukraine until after the referendum on Sunday."
Putin told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday over the phone that the Crimean plebiscite comes in accordance with the UN Charter and the principles of the international law.
Kerry again expressed "deep concern" about what he called "the large deployments" of Russian forces in Crimea and along Ukraine's eastern border.
"We will have to see how the next several days unfold," Carney said, reiterating a call for Russian military personnel to return to their bases in Crimea and for a dialogue between Russia and Ukraine.
"There most definitely will be additional costs if Russia escalates this conflict rather than de-escalates," he added.
Washington has canceled trade talks and military exchanges with Russia, and President Barack Obama has authorized visa bans and assets freeze on some Russians and Ukrainians blamed for Moscow's military moves in Crimea, home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.