Putin Talks Ukraine With European Leaders

Putin Talks Ukraine With European LeadersPutin Talks Ukraine With European Leaders

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his French, German and Ukrainian counterparts agreed in a phonecall early Wednesday that they wanted talks between Kiev, Moscow and rebels controlling parts of eastern Ukraine to resume as soon as possible.

The Kremlin said in a statement that the leaders “continued discussion of the crisis situation in Ukraine” and stressed the “necessity of a stable ceasefire” in conflict-hit eastern Ukraine.

They also noted “the importance of holding a meeting of the contact group as soon as possible in the interests of carrying out the Minsk pact,” the Kremlin said, referring to a peace deal reached in September.

The so-called trilateral contact group includes representatives from the separatist side, Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE.

The leaders agreed to “continue telephone contacts in the near future,” the Kremlin statement said.

  US Sanctions

Meanwhile, the White House says US President Barack Obama will sign a bill imposing new Russian sanctions despite reservations. The bill - which primarily sanctions Russia’s defense industries - passed with overwhelming support in Congress.

The bill would also give Obama the authority to provide lethal and non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine, but not require him to do so.

Russian officials have lashed out in recent days at the prospect of new sanctions. “Russia will not only survive but will come out much stronger,” Sergey Lavrov said

The eight-month-old conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has left at least 4,634 dead and 10,243 wounded, and displaced more than 1.1 million people, according to new UN figures.

  Military Buildup

In another development, the Pentagon has confirmed the military buildup along Russia’s borders. Earlier Moscow accused NATO of a sharp increase in air activity and intelligence flights in the border zone, the RT reported.

Replying to RIA Novosti’s query on the increased number of NATO flights around Russia’s borders, a Pentagon representative told the news agency that the military presence of the alliance has increased, but claimed all operations are carried out under utmost “transparency.”

The official added that this includes among other measures, an increase in “air, and land, sea presence,” as well as holding military drills.