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Kerry says 'confident' of progress on Ukraine

US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Paris on June 5, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Paris on June 5, 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday voiced hope that there would be a breakthrough on ending the Ukraine crisis, enabling Washington to avoid imposing new sanctions against Russia.

"I hope that in the next few days we can see some steps taken that will reduce the tensions ...I'm confident there are ways forward, we look for Russia’s help and our hope is that we won’t have to move to more serious sanctions and other steps," he said.

He spoke of the "possibility of a cease-fire, the possibility of Russia helping to be able to get the separatists to begin to put their guns away, get out of buildings and begin to build Ukraine, where people's needs can be met."

Kerry spoke as Western-backed chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko was sworn in as Ukraine's new president.

On Friday Poroshenko held his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in France a since a May 25 election victory entrusted him with taming a bloody crisis that has shaken the post-Cold War order and redrawn Europe's map following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Western powers have threatened to slap punishing new sanctions on entire sectors of Russia's economy if Putin fails to demonstrate a more cooperative approach on Ukraine by the end of the month.

Tensions in southeastern Ukraine have mounted in recent days with the government admitting that it had lost control of three border posts that were being routinely attacked by the rebels.

But Putin struck a surprisingly upbeat note after his talks with Poroshenko saying he welcomed the Ukrainian's stand on the need "to end the bloodletting immediately in the east of Ukraine."

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