MOSCOW - Russia will take counter measures if Washington imposes new sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday.

The U.S. Congress has readied new sanctions on Russian weapons companies and investors in the country's high-tech oil projects, but U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to sign a corresponding bill into law. ‘We will not be able to leave that without an answer,’ Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying. He did not say what form of counter-measure Moscow might take.

Relations between Russia and the United States are at their lowest since the Cold War because of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March and its support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The West says it has firm evidence that Russia has armed the rebels - an accusation that Moscow rejects - and has, together with the European Union, imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russian individuals and large companies. Russia retaliated to the earlier sanctions by restricting food imports from a range of Western countries.

Russia on Friday criticised the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which foresees further sanctions, saying Washington was doing its utmost to ‘destroy the carcass of cooperation’ between the two countries. Moreover, Top US diplomat John Kerry is set to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Rome, both countries said Saturday, amid Russian anger over the prospect of new US sanctions and possible supply of US weapons to Ukraine.

The timing remained unclear. A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Rome said the meeting would be Sunday afternoon in the Italian capital, while the State Department reiterated an earlier statement it was planned for Monday. Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov also said ‘agreement has been reached’ on holding the talks Sunday, Interfax news agency reported. Despite the tensions over the separatist war in east Ukraine, Ryabkov said that ‘the main focus at their 17th meeting this year would be on the Middle East,’ where Islamic State jihadists have overrun large parts of Syria and Iraq.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Friday that the pair would discuss the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations, as well as the crises in Ukraine and in Syria, where the United States and its partners are battling Islamic State fighters. The announcement by Harf, who said the meeting would be Monday, came a day after US lawmakers defied President Barack Obama and approved fresh economic sanctions against Russia.

The legislation also authorises, but does not require, Obama to provide $350 million worth of lethal and non-lethal military aid to Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, ammunition and ‘tactical troop-operated surveillance drones. Ryabkov said he expected Lavrov to raise the US bill with Kerry in Rome. ‘We see the passing by both houses the above legislative act as yet another demonstration of anti-Russian moods and attempts to dictate decisions to us that for us are categorically unacceptable,’ Ryabkov said.

Earlier Friday, Kerry telephoned Lavrov to discuss ‘recent developments’ in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the region, along with initiatives at the United Nations, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Kerry said he hoped to head off an end-of-year showdown at the United Nations over Palestinian statehood in meetings next week in Europe. The Palestinians are carrying out a major campaign aiming to submit to the UN Security Council a draft resolution setting out a two- or three-year timetable for an end to Israeli occupation.

Russia and the United States both hold veto power at the UN Security Council. Washington backs Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, but Obama has yet to approve the bulk of an arms request by Kiev. The sanctions bill was passed unanimously Thursday in the Senate and House of Representatives. Moscow is concerned at what it sees as NATO's attempt to extend its reach along Russia's western border. But Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of sending regular troops to back separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has claimed more than 4,300 lives since it broke out in April.