Obama phones Putin, Poroshenko ahead of Minsk summit

Leaders from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine will meet Wednesday to seek an end to bitter fighting in Ukraine

Leaders from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine will meet Wednesday to seek an end to bitter fighting in Ukraine

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama spoke by phone with the presidents of Russia and Ukraine on the eve of critical peace talks aimed at halting ongoing violence in Ukraine.

During his call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama “underscored the rising human tool of the fighting” and emphasized “the importance of President Putin seizing the opportunity presented by the ongoing discussions between Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine to reach a peaceful resolution,” according to the White House. 

Leaders from the four countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Putin will meet Wednesday in the Belarusian capital of Minsk to seek an end to bitter fighting in the east of the country.

During another phone call Tuesday, Obama and Poroshenko “agreed on the need for Russia to abide by the commitments it made” during a previous peace summit in Minsk last September, according to the White House.

Fighting has increased in recent weeks as separatist rebels backed by Russia seek to expand their control in the east of the country. The Ukrainian military said yesterday that 1,500 Russian troops crossed its border with convoys of military hardware, including Grad rocket systems.

Obama has been weighing the possibility of providing Ukraine with lethal military aid even as his European allies continue to dispute the effectiveness of such a measure.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that the decision will be affected “by how seriously Russia participates in these negotiations and how committed they are to actually living up to their end of the bargain.”

Still, the White House did not say whether Obama discussed the provision of lethal aid to the Ukrainian government during his call with Poroshenko, only that Obama reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to provide Ukraine with financial support.

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