WASHINGTON - The United States dismissed as"ludicrous" Wednesday claims by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that it was funding or running an offensive in Ukraine as Washington and Moscow againtraded barbs.
"I think many of the claims he made in his interview are ludicrous and they're not based in facts of what is happening on the ground," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
In an interview with state-controlled RT television, Lavrov had issued a blunt warning that Russia would respond if its interests were attacked in Ukraine, in a sign Moscow was upping the ante in the crisis.
Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov late Tuesday ordered a new "anti-terrorist" operation against separatists holding a string of eastern towns after the discovery of two "brutally tortured" bodies.
But Lavrov charged that the timing of a renewed offensive during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Kiev demonstrated that "the Americans are running the show in the most direct way."
Psaki hit back: "The actions of the Ukrainian government are a legitimate response by authorities to react to the illegal armed seizure of buildings and a few towns in eastern Ukraine."
She said the claims that Washington was "running the show or funding it" were ones that she would put "in the ludicrous category."
The administration of President Barack Obama was also still considering a request from the interim leaders in Kiev to provide them with weapons.
But "our approach here is de-escalation. We don't think there's a militarysolution on the ground," Psaki said.
"There's an occupation happening on the ground. What we don't think we need to do is escalate or raise the tensions with the Russians."