WASHINGTON, April 15 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Tuesday urged the Ukrainian government to act "gradually" and "responsibly " in its efforts to ease tension in the eastern part of the country, as Kiev began military operations against pro-Russia militants occupying government buildings there.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Washington has urged restraint and commended Kiev for doing so in its handling of the latest wave of unrest in three eastern states of Ukraine, where pro-Russia protesters have staged rallies, called for federalism in the country or joining the Russian Federation, and stormed and occupied some government buildings since April 6.
The developments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders signed a treaty on March 18 to make Crimea part of Russian territory, as almost 97 percent of voters on the peninsula backed secession from Ukraine in a referendum.
The Ukrainian military on Tuesday retook the airfield in Kramatorsk in operations aimed to flush out gunmen from government buildings and facilities.
"We urge the Ukrainian government to move forward gradually, responsibly, and with all due caution as it deals with the situation caused by armed militants who have seized government buildings, established roadblocks illegally in parts of the country," Carney told reporters at a regular news briefing.
"You know, in some cases, paramilitary groups ... carrying fairy heavy weaponry," he said.
Russia has warned Ukraine against using force to restore order in the country's east, saying that step would end future cooperation and scuttle a four-party meeting slated for Thursday in Geneva between the EU, the U.S., Russia and Ukraine.
"We understand the government of Ukraine is working to try to calm the situation in the east and note the measured approach of the Ukrainian security forces thus far," Carney said.
"We continue to counsel restraint, but absolutely understand that the dynamic created by these coordinated seizures of buildings in eastern Ukraine has become somewhat untenable for the lawful government of Ukraine," he noted.
He stressed that Washington was continuing its efforts to seek a diplomatic solution, saying: "As the president has said, we do not see a military solution to this crisis."
"I can say that we're not considering lethal assistance," he added.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki saw the upcoming four-party meeting as "an opening for diplomacy," saying Washington would not announce fresh sanctions on Russia by Thursday.
The Obama administration is mulling new sanctions in response to Moscow's further moves against Ukraine, as it had targeted a number of key Russian and Crimean officials as well as a Russian bank after Russia's absorb of Crimea.