Britain and US threaten tough new sanctions against Russia
PRESIDENT Obama laid down a new deadline for Russia last night, giving Moscow a month to meet their conditions in Ukraine or face a raft of tougher new sanctions.
The violence in eastern Ukraine sparked a frenzy of high-level meetings in Brussels, Paris and Normandy aimed at reconciling Russia and Ukraine.
Mr Putin held his first face-to-face meetings with Western leaders: British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande last night, and will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel later today. There's hope that Mr Putin could also talk with Ukraine's new president-elect.
Mr Obama and Mr Cameron spelled out new demands for Russia at a joint news conference after a Group of Seven world leader summit. Mr Putin was meant to have hosted the summit in Sochi, but the G-7 countries cancelled that after his aggressive moves in Ukraine, and met without him in Brussels.
It was the group's first summit in two decades without the participation of Russia.
The US and Europe, after imposing economic sanctions on Russia in recent months, are considering toughening them.
To avoid even harsher sanctions, Mr Cameron said Mr Putin must meet three conditions: recognise Petro Poroshenko's election as the new leader in Kiev, stop arms from crossing the border and cease support for pro-Russian separatist groups concentrated in eastern Ukraine.
"If these things don't happen, then sectoral sanctions will follow," Mr Cameron said. "The next month will be vital in judging if President Putin has taken these steps."
After meeting Mr Putin, Mr Cameron said he sent a "very clear and firm set of messages" about the crisis in Ukraine and said the status quo was "not acceptable".
Mr Obama said the G-7 leaders unanimously agree with the steps Mr Cameron outlined.
"If Mr Putin takes those steps, then it is possible for us to begin to rebuild trust between Russia and its neighbours and Europe," Mr Obama said. "We will have a chance to see what Mr Putin does over the next two, three, four weeks, and if he remains on the current course, then we've already indicated the kinds of actions that we're prepared to take."
Mr Obama acknowledged that so-called sectoral sanctions, which would hit key sectors of Russia's economy, could have a bigger impact across Europe because of European economic ties to Russia, and said he didn't necessarily expect all European countries to agree on them.