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Lavrov hits back at Kerry, says US wants to "seize" Ukraine

Russia's 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.

MOSCOW: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday accused Washington of seeking to smear Moscow and charged that the United States wanted to "seize" Ukraine, as he hit back at stinging criticism from US counterpart John Kerry.

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".

"If truth be told, the West -- that's how it all started -- wants to seize Ukraine so to speak, being solely motivated by its own geopolitical ambitions and not the interests of the Ukrainian people."

Kerry warned on 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, saying his tone was unacceptable, 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.

RT television issued a statement on Friday, saying it would demand official apologies from the US State Department.

Lavrov also complained that during private talks with his US, British and French counterparts he constantly came under pressure to call back Russian agents from Ukraine's southeast.

"Sergei, you have to pull back the troops, you have to remove your agents, no one in the world believes you Russians are not there in the southeast and that you have not had your hand in all of this," Lavrov quoted the Western diplomats as saying.

"It's very hard for me to react," Russia's top diplomat 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 a virulent war of words between Washington and Moscow.

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