Washington: The US, France and Germany have agreed to put additional economic sanctions on Russia if Moscow failed to take immediate step to deescalate tension in eastern Ukraine.
Leaders of the three countries took the decision after the US President spoke separately over phone with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and his French counterpart, Francois Hollande to consult about the crisis in Ukraine, a White House statement said yesterday.
"They agreed that should Russia fail to take immediate, concrete steps to deescalate the situation in eastern Ukraine, the US and the European Union would coordinate additional steps to impose costs on Russia," it said.
The three leaders welcomed the announcement by the Ukrainian President of a unilateral ceasefire and reemphasised the need for Russia to pull back its military forces on Ukraine border and exercise its influence among armed separatists to lay down their weapons and renounce violence.
Obama, Merkel and Hollande also expressed concern about the situation in Iraq and the threat posed by ISIL, it said.
Earlier in the day, White House Deputy Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, said the US had repeatedly called on the Russians to support peace and to promote some stability to the security situation in Ukraine.
"We`ve also asked them to halt the provision of arms and materiel across the border from Russia to Ukraine. We also want them to stop supporting the militants who are fomenting so much violence and instability in that country," he said.
"Now, unfortunately, there is mounting evidence that shows a buildup of Russian military forces near the border with Ukraine, contrary to the statements by Kremlin officials. We do not see any evidence that the Russian military units arriving to the region are connected to any type of border security mission," he said.
He noted that reports from Moscow about Russian Defence Ministry considering to create military cordons in eastern Ukraine was also troubling. "So we`re monitoring the situation closely. We will not accept any use of Russian military forces under any pretext in eastern Ukraine; after all, eastern Ukraine is a sovereign country. And interference by outside countries is a violation of their sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.
Referring to a recent statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in which he described ethnic cleansing taking place in Ukraine, Earnest said these were simply false. "We see these statements for what they are, an attempt to create pretext for further illegal Russian intervention in Ukraine. In fact, responsibility for the deterioration in the human rights situation in Ukraine lies with the armed separatists who are targeting the population and their backers in Russia," he said.