US Secretary of State John Kerry has met the leaders of the new Ukrainian government and attempted to relaunch a diplomacy-first approach to the crisis.

His said Moscow had to call off its troops and start negotiating with Kyiv, expressing disbelief at a press conference on learning Vladimir Putin had earlier denied Russian forces were on Ukrainian soil, reports Euronews.

“It is diplomacy and respect for sovereignty, not unilateral force, that can best solve disputes like this in the 21st century. President Obama and I want to make it clear to Russia and to everybody in the world: we are not seeking confrontation. There is a better way for Russia to pursue its legitimate interests in Ukraine.”

Kerry went on to deliver a systematic demolition of nearly all of Moscow’s justifications for military action which he described as an “act of agression”, and he also offered some immediate help for Ukraine’s calamitous economic situation.

Kerry also visited Independence Square in Kyiv, the site of the Maidan protests, to lay flowers in the memory of those who died during the February demonstrations.