Russia has warned the United States it will respond if Ukraine is drawn into any US “geopolitical games”, while Washington has threatened “serious costs” for Moscow if the crisis escalates.
The exchange came during what a US official described as a “serious, sober and business-like” meeting between the Russian and US foreign ministers in Sweden.
The dialogue between Sergei Lavrov and Anthony Blinken was the highest-level, face-to-face talks since presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden met in Switzerland in June.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also spoke separately with Mr Lavrov at the sidelines of a security conference between a large group of foreign ministers in Stockholm.
She “expressed concern” about rising tensions across Europe and urged the Kremlin to “de-escalate” the crisis over Ukraine, the foreign office said in a statement.
The Russia-US dialogue, though, was the most important exchange at a time of heightened East-West tensions over a build-up of tens of thousands of Russian forces around Ukraine.
US officials have accused Moscow of preparing for a potential invasion of the territory. The Kremlin has dismissed these allegations and accused Kiev of preparing for military action.
The two sides offered their own accounts of the meeting.
The Russian foreign ministry said Mr Lavrov told Mr Blinken that Russia would respond to any US “geopolitical games” that affected Ukraine, according to the Interfax news agency.
He also said Moscow and Washington needed to agree on long-term security guarantees.
A spokesman for Mr Blinken said the top US diplomat warned if Moscow chose “the path of military escalation” then the United States and its allies were prepared to “impose significant costs”.
A second US official said there had been a constructive exchange on implementing existing peace agreements for eastern Ukraine as a possible pathway out of the crisis, and further intense diplomacy was likely in coming days.