Obama, Merkel pile pressure on Russia

Washington is ready to ramp up sanctions on Russia over Ukraine if necessary.

FILE: US President Barack Obama with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel during the family picture of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg, on 23 October 2013. Picture: AFP

BERLIN - United States (US) President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed their concern about Russia's role in rising violence in eastern Ukraine in a phone call late on Tuesday and agreed on the need for funds to stabilise the Ukrainian economy.

The White House said both leaders were worried about "Russia's materiel support for the separatists" and its failure to uphold a ceasefire agreement signed last September in Minsk.

It added in a statement that they "agreed on the need to hold Russia accountable for its actions".

Washington is ready to ramp up sanctions on Russia over Ukraine if necessary, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said at the signature of a $2 billion loan guarantee agreement for Kiev on Wednesday. Obama and Merkel spoke of the need for a "robust package of financial support" to help stabilise Ukraine.

European Union foreign ministers are likely to ask the bloc's executive Commission to prepare new sanctions against Russia at a meeting on Thursday, though a final decision will be taken by European Union (EU) leaders at a summit on 12 February.