"It is important for Ukraine and Russia to have a constructive relationship," Philip Crowley said on Wednesday, after being asked to comment on the Russian president's recent "scathing attack" on his Ukrainian counterpart.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev blamed Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko on Tuesday for the worsening in relations between the two former Soviet republics, expressing his "deep concern at the current, without exaggeration, crisis in Russian-Ukrainian relations."
Relations between Moscow and Kiev have been marred in recent years following a number of gas disputes, Ukraine's desire to join NATO, and the Soviet-era famine in Ukraine.
Crowley also reiterated the U.S.'s support for Ukraine's right as a sovereign state to pursue its interests "in any way that it chooses."
"Going forward, Ukraine has a right to make its own choices, and we feel that it has a right to join NATO if it chooses," the U.S. official said.
Ukraine has been pursuing NATO membership since pro-Western Yushchenko was inaugurated in January 2005. However, regular opinion polls show that the majority of Ukrainians continue to oppose joining the alliance.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden also expressed Washington's support for Kiev's NATO plans during a visit to Ukraine in late July.
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