Obama and Merkel Threaten Russia with Tougher Sanctions
U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened tougher and broader new sanctions against Russia on Friday, if Moscow doesn't quickly change its disruptive behavior.
"We will not have a choice but to move forward with additional more-severe sanctions" if Russia disrupts a presidential election in Ukraine scheduled for May 25, Obama said at a news conference with Merkel outside the White House, according to The Associated Press (AP).
"Further sanctions will be unavoidable," Merkel agreed.
Both leaders made it clear that the next step would be to order sanctions on separate parts of the Russian economy or military - on energy or arms for example - but neither leader specified precisely what was being considered.
Russian President Vladimir Putin "needs to be dissuaded from his current course," Obama was quoted as having said.
The two met as the European Union announced it would hold talks with Ukraine and Russia later this month on the price of natural gas, an attempt to avoid any disruption in supplies.
Moscow recently hiked the price of gas shipped to Ukraine to $485 per thousand cubic meters from $268.50, and threatened to limit deliveries if Kiev does not meet the new price and repay a debt of $3.5 billion.
Obama earlier this week announced new sanctions targeting a list of individuals and companies, including some close associates of Putin.
In response, Russia threatened the United States with a “painful response”, and its deputy minister for foreign relations said the sanctions were "meaningless, shameful, and disgusting."
The United States and the EU previously responded to Russia’s actions in Ukraine by imposing personal sanctions against Russian and Crimean officials involved in the seizure of the peninsula.
Putin, however, has remained unfazed by EU and U.S. economic sanctions, and has responded by drafting his own sanctions on top American senators.
The situation in Ukraine intensified on Friday, as pro-Russian separatists in the eastern city of Sloviansk shot down two Ukrainian military helicopters, during a "counterterrorism" operation ordered by Kiev to clear the area of insurgents.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)