LONDON (AFP) - US and European sanctions against Russia could be lifted within days if President Vladimir Putin made the right choices in Ukraine, top US diplomat John Kerry said Tuesday.
Kerry told reporters that the sanctions which have shaken confidence in Russia's economy, helping to send the rouble into a nosedive, were not aimed at hurting the Russian people.
They "were clearly intended to invite President Putin to make a different set of choices," Kerry said on a visit to London.
"These sanctions could be lifted in a matter of weeks or days, depending on the choices that President Putin takes," he added.
Kerry spoke as the Russian currency crashed to unprecedented lows against the euro and dollar, testing Putin's ability to ride out an economic storm and prevail in his confrontation with the West over Ukraine.
Russia's emergency move to raise interest rates to 17 per cent failed to arrest the collapse of the rouble with the currency accelerating its slide amid falling oil prices and Western sanctions over the Kremlin's support for the uprising in Ukraine.
"We do not want the people to be hurting, this is not our goal. None of what we are doing is targeted specifically against the people," Kerry said.
"But, yes, collaterally of course they are caught up in the choices that their government makes and it does have an impact."
The top US diplomat also welcomed "constructive moves" by Russia to ease tensions in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine.
"There are signs of constructive choices and that can only be helpful, hopefully. And our hope is that in days ahead we can get to a clear defined path by all parties," he said.