Kerry urges Russia to act within hours

Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday urged Russia to show "in the next hours" that it is pushing to have armed separatists in Ukraine to put down their weapons to join the political process. 

Kerry said he would prefer that the international community not be in "sanction mode” even as they are being prepared if Russia does not adhere to its commitments.  

"We are in full agreement that it is critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that they are moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm, to call on them to lay down their weapons and begin to become part of a legitimate political process," Kerry said after a meeting with the French foreign minister in Paris. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's move to give up authorization to invade Ukraine was a good first step, Kerry said Wednesday, but noted it could be reversed in minutes. 

The United States and the international community have warned of further sanctions on Russia if it does not move to help stop the flow of weapons and violence into the country. 

"But our preference is not to have to be into a sanctions mode," he said. "We would like to see a cooperative effort between the United States, Europe, and Russia and the Ukrainians. And we are going to try to encourage that as much as we can."

President Obama spoke with Putin earlier this week. Leaders in France, Germany and Ukraine talked with Putin by phone Wednesday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he hoped Russia would follow through on its commitments in the next few days. 

A cease-fire had been called Ukraine early in the week, but it has been strained at times as some violence has continued, including the shooting down of a Ukraine government helicopter by separatists there Tuesday.