Ukraine crisis: Obama says Russia has 'hand' in 'disruption and chaos' | World news |

The US has promised Ukraine non-lethal military aid after the low morale among the country's soldiers became evident in confrontations with pro-Moscow separatists, but the White House urged the Kiev to act in a “measured and responsible way” in responding to unrest in the east.

The American offer came ahead of today's talks over the fate of eastern Ukraine. Those negotiations began this morning in Geneva amid low expectations and battling narratives over what is going on the ground.

Asked if he is expecting any progress, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, simply shrugged. He held separate meetings this morning at the Intercontinental Hotel with the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, the Ukrainian foreign minister, Andrii Deshchytisa, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, before all four began a plenary session.

Deshchytisa said he had come with “optimism and goodwill” but Lavrov did not hold a separate meeting with him. The ballroom set aside for the closing press conference has been decked out with the US star and stripes but no other flags.

The White House press secretary, Jay Carney noted today's Geneva meeting represented the first time for the four foreign ministers, known as the 'contact group', has met since the crisis erupted in February.

He said the US was considering requests from Kiev for support for the army, but stressed it would not be lethal aid in the form of arms or ammunition. Press reports have suggested it would include items like uniforms, but stop short of body armour.

Briefing journalists on Air Force One, Carney, urged restraint on Kiev, saying “It is certainly appropriate for Ukraine to take action to restore law and order, but we believe that they should continue to do so in a measured and responsible way.”