Kerry to confront Russia's foreign minister

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to London to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday to try to "diffuse" mounting tensions between Russia and the United States.

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Kerry announced the hastily arraigned trip on Wednesday during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. He said he will use the meeting to try to "de-escalate" the crisis sparked by Russia's military incursion into Ukrainian territory.

Kerry had been scheduled to meet face-to-face Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but that meeting was postponed.

Previewing his message to Lavrov, Kerry said that the administration is not eager to apply sanctions to Russia's $40 billion worth of annual trade with the U.S.

"We do not seek a world in which we have to apply additional costs," he said, adding that isolating Russia could harm diplomatic efforts on Iran, Syria and nuclear non-proliferation.

But he said the U.S. must present Lavrov with choices.

"We will do what we have to do if Russia cannot find the way to make the right choices here," he said. 

“It can get ugly fast if the wrong choices are made,” Kerry said.

He said secession or annexation of Crimea into Russia would be unacceptable and illegal under the constitution of Ukraine. He said a weekend referendum on Crimea leaving Ukraine might succeed, but the Russian Duma could then hold off on moving to formal annexation.

In a statement, State said Kerry will use the meeting with Lavrov to "reaffirm the United States' unwavering support for Ukrainian sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, without outside interference or provocation by Russia."

During the hearing, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) asked Kerry to pressure the Senate into changing its Ukraine aid bill. Rogers said provisions dealing with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should be dropped in order to expedite aid.

“This is not the time to try to attach riders to something of this importance,” Rogers said.

Kerry responded that Congress needs to vote to allow the IMF reform, which cannot go ahead without U.S. support.  

“It is only through the IMF, a reformed IMF, that Ukraine is going to receive the additional help that it needs in order to stand on its own two feet,” Kerry said.

The Senate's Ukraine bill also contains new sanctions authority against Russia.

— This story was updated at 12 p.m.