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Russia demands U.S. stop Ukraine's military operation

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia on Thursday demanded that the United States force the Ukrainian authorities to halt a military operation in southeastern Ukraine and withdraw units of the armed forces.

Putting the onus on Washington to ease tensions after Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the situation "demands urgent actions to force the Kiev authorities, who are wards of the United States, to restrain themselves and not use force".

"We are counting on the United States to take urgent measures in the interests of de-escalation," it said in a statement.

"Washington must force the current Ukrainian leadership to immediately stop the military operation in southeastern Ukraine and withdraw military units to their permanent bases."

"So far, nothing has been done to resolve this urgent task," it said. "We hope that Washington understands the full measure of its responsibility for what is happening."

Telephone talks planned for Wednesday and Thursday between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had not taken place "for reasons that did not depend on Moscow", the ministry said.

It said that in advance of a conversation between Kerry and Lavrov scheduled for Friday, Russia "once again insistently calls on Washington to use all its influence on the interim government in Kiev" to prevent it from taking steps that could plunge Ukraine deeper into crisis.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Christian Lowe)

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