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Obama calls for irregular forces to lay down arms in Ukraine

US President Barack Obama urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday to press pro-Moscow groups to lay down their arms in Ukraine amid escalating tensions. In the call requested by Moscow, Obama "emphasized that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized," the White House said in a statement. oh/

EU agrees to expand Russia sanctions, may hold emergency summit on Ukraine

By Justyna Pawlak and Adrian Croft LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - The European Union agreed on Monday to step up sanctions against Russia over Ukraine by expanding a list of people targeted with asset freezes and visa bans, and said the bloc could hold an emergency summit next week to adopt further measures. EU foreign ministers acted in response to a deepening of the crisis in Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists ignored an ultimatum on Monday to leave occupied government buildings in the east of the country.

White House warns Russia of more 'costs' over Ukraine

By Jeff Mason and Arshad Mohammed WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House warned Russia on Monday that it would face further costs over its actions in Ukraine and said U.S. President Barack Obama would speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin soon. U.S. officials stopped short of announcing a new set of sanctions against Ukraine but said they were in consultations with European partners about the prospect.

Putin tells Obama charges of Ukraine interference 'unfounded'

President Vladimir Putin on Monday told US counterpart Barack Obama that charges of Russia meddling in eastern Ukraine were "unfounded", the Kremlin said. "In reply to concern voiced by the American president about so-called Russian interference in southeast Ukraine, the Russian president remarked that such speculations are based on unfounded information," said a statement, referring to a telephone conversation between the two leaders.

Ukraine: current sanctions on Russia and options

The United States and European Union have warned Moscow it faces more sanctions if Russian troops intervene further in Ukraine. Here is a look at where things stand now. - CURRENT SANCTIONS - EUROPE: The European Union has slapped visa bans and asset freezes on 33 Ukrainian and Russian officials and business leaders, including members of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle and Black Sea and Crimea commanders.

Putin rewards Crimea PM with post of governor

Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed the current premier of Crimea as the peninsula's acting governor on Monday, another step towards its establishment as a region of Russia. Sergei Aksyonov, who has been prime minister since the start of the region's drive to separate from Ukraine, will hold the post until elections, according to a decree published on the Kremlin's website. As the two met at the president's Moscow-region residence, Putin thanked Aksyonov for his help in making Crimea a Russian region, telling him: "It is first and foremost your accomplishment."

Ukraine: current sanctions and options

The United States and European Union have warned Moscow it faces more sanctions if Russian troops intervene further in Ukraine. Here is a look at where things stand now. - CURRENT SANCTIONS - EUROPE: The European Union has slapped visa bans and asset freezes on 33 Ukrainian and Russian officials and business leaders, including members of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle and Black Sea and Crimea commanders.

Putin getting requests for help from eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin is receiving many requests for help from eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow protesters have clashed with authorities, and is watching the situation with "great concern", his spokesman said on Monday. "Unfortunately, we are receiving a lot of such requests from the regions of east Ukraine, addressed personally to Putin, with a request to help, to intervene in some form," Russian news agencies quoted Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Russia pledges to fulfil Europe gas obligations

President Vladimir Putin on Friday said Russia would fulfil its contractual obligations to send natural gas to Europe after threatening to pull the plug on energy supplies over Ukraine's unpaid gas bill. "We certainly guarantee the fulfilment of our obligations before our European customers in full," Putin said in comments released by the Kremlin. "The issue is not about us, the issue is about securing transit through Ukraine." as/am/ric

In spat over Ukraine, Putin tells U.S. not to read others' letters

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin responded acidly to U.S. comments about a proposal he sent to European leaders seeking talks about Ukraine's gas debt and supplies, saying "it is not good to read other people's letters". In a letter to 18 European leaders on Thursday, Putin said Russian gas supplies to Europe could be disrupted if Moscow cuts the flow to Ukraine over unpaid bills, drawing a U.S. accusation that Russia is using energy as a "tool of coercion". (Writing by Steve Gutterman)
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