Lavrov accuses US of seeking to 'smear Russia'

MOSCOW - Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday accused the United States of seeking to smear Moscow and called US Secretary of State John Kerry's tone over the Ukraine crisis unacceptable.

Lavrov warned "the might of US propaganda" was aimed "at smearing Russia, smearing those who protest against the illegal actions of the (Kiev) authorities who are trying to ban Russian and trying to call all Russians and Russian speakers enemies who should be killed." Kerry warned Thursday that Moscow's refusal to end the Ukraine crisis would be costly, saying the window of opportunity for Russia to change tack was closing.

The top US diplomat also accused the Kremlin-funded RT television network, formerly known as Russia Today, of being deployed to "promote President Putin's fantasy." Speaking at a youth forum in Moscow, Lavrov slammed his US counterpart's comments to the media and defended RT as a "serious" competitor to CNN and BBC.

"They are accusing us of turning on - as John Kerry expressed it yesterday in his statement made in an unacceptable tone, a prosecutor's tone - he accuses us of turning on Putin's propaganda machine, Russia Today." "You know talking like that about media is probably not very polite," Lavrov said.

The crisis in Ukraine has triggered the biggest crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War and has sparked an virulent war of words between Washington and Moscow.