A senior State Department official said Lavrov's willingness to discuss Ukraine political reforms was positive. But the official stressed that the Russian military escalation was of "greatest concern" and must be reversed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said earlier Sunday that in addition to sanctions, Russia would lose influence and standing in the world if Putin doesn't back down.
"President Putin has a choice about what he's going to do here. Is he going to continue to further isolate himself, further hurt his economy, further diminish Russian influence in the world, or is he going to do the right thing?" Pfeiffer said.
U.S. and European officials have said they plan to announce sanctions against Russia, including visa bans and potential asset freezes, on Monday if Putin does not shift course.
But Putin and other Russians have shown no sign they are willing to back down.
Meanwhile, members of Congress said Sunday they were ready to enact tough sanctions on various Russian leaders, although $1 billion in loan guarantees to help the Ukrainian economy is on hold while Congress is on a break.
"President Putin has started a game of Russian roulette, and I think the United States and the West have to be very clear in their response because he will calculate about how far he can go," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The top Republican on the committee, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, said the U.S. and Europe were entering a "defining moment" in their relationship with Russia.
"Putin will continue to do this. He did it in Georgia a few years ago. He's moved into Crimea, and he will move into other places unless we show that long-term resolve."
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, just back from meetings in Ukraine, said Ukrainians he talked to said war could occur if Russia attempts to annex more territory. They indicated that "if Russia really does decide to move beyond Crimea, it's going to be bloody and the fight may be long," Murphy said.
Pfeiffer spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press." Menendez and Corker appeared on "Fox News Sunday." Murphy was on ABC's "This Week."
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