German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama have said they will impose further sanctions on Russia if it “continues to destabilise Ukraine”.
“The next step is going to be a broader-based sectoral sanctions regime,“ Obama said at a White House press conference.
Russia’s energy and banking sectors are those likely to be hardest hit if sanctions are widened.
The two leaders declared their intention to resolve the situation in Ukraine through diplomatic means.
“The goal is not to punish Russia,” said Obama.
“The goal is to give them an incentive to choose the better course and that is to resolve these
issues diplomatically, and I think we are united on that front.”
Both spoke of what Obama called “the appalling treatment” of OSCE observers and their escorts in the east of Ukraine.
They called for Russia to organise the immediate release of the observers, four of whom are German.
Merkel also expressed the two leaders’ joint support for Ukraine, saying the scheduled election date of May 25 was critical and “we will see to it that elections can take place”.
Other topics discussed included the importance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
It was Merkel’s first visit to the White House since it emerged that her mobile phone may have been monitored for years by the US.
The so-called “spying scandal” was also alluded to during the conference, with both sides agreeing to work closely together on a cyber-intelligence operation – despite occasional disagreements.