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Obama, Merkel Warn Russia of Further Sanctions

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented a united front against Russia Friday, warning of further sanctions if Russia does not take the steps necessary for a diplomatic solution to the situation in Ukraine.

The two leaders spoke Friday at the White House, just days after the U.S. and European Union imposed a new round of sanctions on Russia.

President Obama said if the Russian leadership continues to destabilize eastern Ukraine, the U.S. and European Union will move quickly on additional steps, including both diplomatic and economic sanctions.

Chancellor Merkel stressed that this is something both the U.S. and Germany do not want, but she said in that case, it would be "unavoidable." She said it is very much up to the Russians which road will be taken.

A diplomatic deal reached two weeks ago in Geneva has so far failed to de-escalate the conflict between pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and the central government in Kyiv.

President Obama said the Ukrainian government has followed through on the commitments it made and that Russia needs to do the same.

He condemned the actions of pro-Russian militants, calling their continued holding of seven observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe "disgraceful" and "inexcusable." And he called on Russia to work to secure their immediate release.

Despite the show of strength, Ms. Merkel and other European leaders are facing pressure from within their countries not to take steps against Russia that will harm their own economic interests.