(MENAFN - Arab News) London/kiev: the united states and its european allies found broad unity on thursday that russia should face sectoral sanctions if the kremlin tries to disrupt ukrainian elections later this month a senior us official said.
us secretary of state john kerry briefed foreign ministers from germany france britain and italy on us thinking about possible sanctions which would cover some of russia's largest sectors including mining and gas.
the official said the next phase of sanctions against russia would use 'a scalpel rather than a hammer" and would focus on new investment in the sectors.
'all ministers led by secretary kerry underscored that a free fair election across ukraine including the east on may 25 is absolutely essential" a senior state department official who spoke on condition of anonymity told reporters in london.
'there was broad unity in the room that if the elections are disrupted and moscow's hand is behind that that we need to move to sectoral sanctions" the official said. 'there was no dissent on that subject."
the united states and the european union have imposed several rounds of sanctions on individuals and some companies in an attempt to punish president vladimir putin for the annexation of crimea and to halt any further interference in ukraine.
western leaders have accused putin of destabilizing ukraine by stoking rebellion in the russian-speaking eastern areas a charge putin has denied.
'we have been pretty clear in being able to pinpoint and expose ... when moscow's hand has been behind past disruptions so i would guess that would be relatively clear should it happen" the us official said.
meanwhile russian president vladimir putin said on thursday ukraine must pay in advance for russian gas supplies starting from next month thursday raising pressure on the struggling neighbor as moscow voiced dismay over what it says is ukraine's reluctance to implement an international peace plan.
putin said in a letter to european leaders that ukraine's debt for russian gas supplies has reached 3.5 billion and beause of its refusal to pay moscow it will have to switch to pre-paid gas deliveries starting from june 1.
the russian president first warned of the move in april in a letter to european leaders whose nations are customers of russian state-controlled gazprom natural gas giant. ukraine serves as a major conduit for russian gas supplies to europe and pricing disputes have led to shutdowns in the past.
putin said gas talks involving russia ukraine and the eu have failed to reach a compromise and pointed at ukraine's refusal to pay even though it has received 3.2 billion bailout from the international monetary fund.
ukraine says it would pay if moscow restores the price discounts canceled after the toppling of pro-russian president viktor yanukovych in february after months of protests.
russia denounced yanukovych's ouster as a coup and quickly sent its troops to take over ukraine's black sea peninsula of crimea which it annexed weeks later. in april a mutiny erupted across ukraine's vast eastern industrial heartland where pro-russian insurgents seized government buildings and fighting government troops. many in the east see the new government in kiev as nationalists bent on repressing russian speakers.
the insurgents in the donetsk and luhansk regions declared independence after sunday's referendum which was rejected as a sham by ukraine's government and the west. those in donetsk even asked to join russia but the kremlin has clearly signaled it has no intention to do so in an apparent hope to negotiate a settlement to the worst russia-west crisis in a generation.
kiev and the west alleged russia was fomenting the unrest which moscow denies. the u.s. and european union have imposed sanctions on russia in the crisis.
moscow supported a swiss-brokered peace plan which calls for ending hostilities and amnestying the rebels and urges a nationwide dialogue between the government and its foes on decentralization and the status of the russian language. ukraine has remained cool to the initiative saying it fails to require any russian action to de-escalate the crisis.