Moscow unhappy over Obama's call to Putin
BARACK Obama told Vladimir Putin yesterday that the United States is still deeply concerned that Russia is ramping up support for separatists in Ukraine.
It was the first conversation between the leaders since the US and Europe slapped a new round of economic sanctions on Moscow.
In a phone call, Obama also raised concerns that Russia violated a key Cold War era nuclear weapons treaty, the White House said.
The Obama administration has said Russia violated a 1987 treaty that bars the possession, production or testing of certain intermediate-range cruise missiles.
In Moscow, the Kremlin said Putin had characterised the sanctions during the phone call as counterproductive, adding that they seriously damage bilateral co-operation and general global stability.
The Kremlin said both Obama and Putin underscored the urgency for bringing an end to fighting in eastern Ukraine and spoke positively about a meeting that took place the day before in Minsk, Belarus, among members of a diplomatic "contact group" pursuing an end to hostilities.
The group includes representatives from Russia, Ukraine as well as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The call came as the U.S. was poised to send an additional $27 million in military aid to Ukraine in an effort to strengthen the struggling nation's national guard and beef up its ability to protect its border.
The money comes amid increased congressional pressure on the administration to increase support for Ukraine as it battles separatists.
US officials said the aid includes $19 million for the Ukrainian National Guard and $8 million for security, including surveillance equipment, armoured vehicles, and small boats.
At least 12,000 Russian troops are gathered close to Ukraine's eastern border.
The US has complained about Moscow sending heavy military equipment across the border to support the pro-Russian separatists.