WASHINGTON, April 9 (Xinhua) -- The United States does not have high expectations for a planned meeting with Russia, Ukraine and the European Union on the crisis of Ukraine, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday.
"We don't have high expectations for these talks, but we do believe it is very important to keep that diplomatic door open," Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said at a congressional hearing.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed on Monday to hold talks next week in Europe with Ukrainian and European officials over the Ukraine crisis.
On a similar note, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that "it is not as if we are holding our breath waiting for this meeting," stressing that it is "a part of many steps" the United States is taking with the Ukrainian government to de-escalate the current crisis.
Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for European affairs, reiterated U.S. calls for Russia to demonstrate that it is "prepared to come to these discussions to do what is necessary to de-escalate."
She urged Russia to take concrete steps to disavow separatist actions in Eastern Ukraine and pull back its forces outside the country.
Russia has attempted to intimidate Ukraine by amassing more than 40,000 troops and quick strike aircraft along its border with Ukraine, and with trade blockades and gas price hikes of 80 percent, Nuland told lawmakers.
At a hearing held by Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Kerry accused Russian agents of stirring unrest in eastern Ukraine that could be used as a pretext for military intervention. Russia has rejected such an accusation.
Kerry reiterated U.S. concerns about escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine in a telephone talk with Lavrov on Wednesday morning, Psaki told reporters at the press briefing later in the day.
Psaki said Kerry also spoke with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk on Wednesday and they discussed the ongoing efforts by the Ukrainian government to continue to address the situation in eastern Ukraine peacefully.