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Aiming to de-escalate military tensions with Russia, US and Ukraine try carrot-stick approach

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    Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Geneva, Wednesday, April 16, 2014, where he is scheduled to participate in talks on the ongoing situation in Ukraine with representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the European Union. (AP Photo/Jim Bourg, Pool) (The Associated Press)

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    A soldier from the Ukrainian Army jumps on top of an armored vehicle, as they are blocked by people on their way to the town of Kramatorsk on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents commandeered six Ukrainian armored vehicles along with their crews and hoisted Russian flags over them Wednesday, dampening the central government's hopes of re-establishing control over restive eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo) (The Associated Press)

Ukraine is seeking to pacify Russia even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what Washington says are Russian efforts to foment unrest in the former Soviet state.

The carrot-and-stick strategy emerged as diplomats from Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union and Russia prepared to meet Thursday for the first time over the burgeoning crisis that threatens to roil the new government in Kiev.

Russia also appears to be honing a strategy to push the West as far as possible without provoking crippling sanctions against its financial and energy sectors or a military confrontation with NATO.

Obama administration officials played down any expectations that the meetings in Geneva would yield a breakthrough or Russian concessions meaningful enough to avoid new U.S. penalties.