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Obama and Merkel threaten Russia with "devastating new sanctions"

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US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have called on Russia to de-escalate immediately the crisis in Ukraine or face the consequences of devastating new sanctions.

“If in fact we see the disruptions and the destabilization continuing so severely that it impedes elections on May 25, we will not have a choice but to move forward with additional… severe sanctions,” Obama said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House on Friday.

“If Russia continues on its current course, we have a range of tools at our disposal, including sanctions that would target certain sectors of the Russian economy,” Obama said.

“Further sanctions will be unavoidable,” Merkel agreed, but neither she nor Obama specified precisely what was being considered.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “needs to be dissuaded from his current course,” Obama stated.

Earlier, the two leaders held a meeting for over an hour in the Oval Office, where Obama said most of their discussion centered on the worsening crisis in Ukraine.

The United States has already imposed travel and asset bans on a number of Russian officials over the crisis in Ukraine. This week, the US and the European Union imposed new sanctions against government officials in Moscow and some businesses.

The Autonomous Republic of Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum a day earlier, in which nearly 97 percent of the participants voted in favor of the move. On March 21, Crimea officially became part of the Russian territory.

On April 17, Russia, Ukraine, the US and the European Union agreed over steps to “de-escalate” the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where anti-Kiev protesters seized buildings in several towns and cities.

But, Ukrainian authorities have ordered a military offensive against the protesters, claiming that Russian special forces are fueling unrest in the country.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov admitted that security forces are “helpless” to quell unrest in eastern regions of the country.

“It is hard to accept but it’s the truth. The majority of law enforcers in the east are incapable of performing their duties,” Turchynov told a meeting of regional governors in Kiev.


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