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Obama, Germany's Merkel consult on Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel shake hands at the end of a joint news conference at the Chancellery in Berl
U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel shake hands at the end of a joint news conference at the Chancellery in Berl

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama consulted by phone on Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and agreed to keep up the pressure on Russia to defuse the crisis in Ukraine or face more economic sanctions.

The United States and the European Union have threatened to ratchet up sanctions against the Russian economy unless Moscow reins in pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine that are fighting the Ukraine government. Moscow denies supporting them.

A White House statement said Obama and Merkel expressed their support for diplomatic efforts that are trying to arrange a new ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

"They stressed that Russia must take immediate steps to de-escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The president and the chancellor agreed that the United States and Europe should take further coordinated measures to impose costs on Russia if it does not take steps toward de-escalation in short order," the White House said.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Ken Wills)

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