Obama, Merkel crank up pressure on Russia

US President Barack Obama speaks after visiting a classroom at Coral Reef High School in Miami, Florida on March 7, 2014President Barack Obama hailed the “unified position” of the European Union and the United States against Russia’s incursion into Ukraine during a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday. The call came as Ukraine braced for new pro-Russian protests in the tense eastern city of Donetsk after Moscow threatened to cut crucial gas supplies to the country, further escalating hostilities with the West. Obama and Merkel “agreed on the need for Russia to pull back its forces, allow for the deployment of international observers and human rights monitors to Crimea, and support free and fair presidential elections in May,” a White House statement said. “They discussed the need for Russia to agree quickly on the formation of a contact group that will lead to direct dialogue between Ukraine and Russia to de-escalate the situation and restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

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