US warns of possible new sanctions against Russia over Ukraine

Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives a press conference in Minsk on August 27, 2014 (AFP Photo/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Washington (AFP) - The United States warned Thursday it was considering new sanctions against Russia over its involvement in the latest fighting in Ukraine.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Russian President Vladimir Putin had a choice to make over whether he wanted his people to feel the effects of deepening sanctions.

"The impact has been escalating and increasing as we have increased them as well," she said. "That's why we continue to do more and why we're considering doing more."

Psaki, however, appeared to rule out a military response to what US and NATO officials said was Russia's direct involvement in the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

NATO said more than 1,000 Russian troops were on the ground in eastern Ukraine supporting pro-Moscow separatist rebels fighting Kiev.

"A military solution is not what we think is the appropriate approach so we are taking every tool that we can to see if we can reach a solution here through diplomatic means," Psaki said.

She said those options would be discussed with NATO allies.

Ukraine's pro-Western government has asked for urgent help after a rebel counter-offensive smashed through an army blockade around the separatist stronghold of Donetsk and threatened the port city of Mariupol.

But Psaki said, "Our focus remains on non-lethal assistance -- we have provided a range of non-lethal assistance as have a number of other countries in Europe."

"We have not ruled out options. Obviously, there are a range of requests we have and that the National Security Council team can certainly consider, but I have no update or predictions for you at this point," she said.