Obama joins G7 talks on Ukraine crisis, as Russia is warned of f - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Obama joins G7 talks on Ukraine crisis, as Russia is warned of further costs


(CNN) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with other G7 leaders Thursday in Brussels, Belgium, where talks on the crisis in Ukraine are expected to dominate.

There is a noticeable absentee from the meeting, however: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He was excluded from what was originally intended to be a G8 summit in Sochi, Russia, as part of measures to sanction Moscow over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

Obama led the international effort to suspend Russia's participation in the world group of economic powers over its activities in Ukraine, where separatist unrest continues to roil the East.

In a joint statement issued late Wednesday, the G7 leaders pledged their support for the Ukrainian people and government "in the face of unacceptable interference in Ukraine's sovereign affairs by the Russian Federation."

They also warned Moscow that they are ready to intensify targeted economic sanctions and impose new costs on Russia "should events so require."

"Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, and actions to de-stabilize eastern Ukraine are unacceptable and must stop," the statement said.

"We urge the Russian Federation to recognize the results of the election, complete the withdrawal of its military forces on the border with Ukraine, stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border and to exercise its influence among armed separatists to lay down their weapons and renounce violence."

Obama is due to hold bilateral talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron on the sidelines of the G7 meeting. He will then head to Paris to meet French President Francois Hollande.

Obama is among a number of leaders invited to take part in ceremonies in France to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which helped change the course of World War II.

He and Putin are likely to cross paths while both are in France, but no formal talks have been announced.

Speaking Wednesday in Warsaw, Poland -- the first stop of his three-nation European trip -- Obama called on the international community to stand behind Ukraine as it makes a transition to a new government.

He also met with President-elect Petro Poroshenko and vowed to give him U.S. support.

Putin: I won't avoid anyone

Although Putin is not invited to the G7 meeting -- which brings together the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Japan -- he will have talks on Ukraine with some G7 leaders while they all are in France.

They include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Cameron and Hollande.

The D-Day events, which include a spectacular fireworks show Thursday evening along the Normandy coastline and continue into the weekend, may also bring Putin and Poroshenko face-to-face.

Asked in an interview with French television station TF1 if he would speak with Ukraine's new leader, Putin said he will not "evade" Poroshenko or anyone else.

"There will be other guests, and I'm not going to avoid any of them. I will talk with all of them," he said, according to the Kremlin's translation.

Poroshenko also did not exclude the possibility, speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Warsaw.

"As things stand now, a meeting between me and Putin is not envisaged, but I do not rule out that it could take place in one format or another so let's talk about it when there are grounds for it," he said.

Hollande said that both were invited, although Poroshenko is due to arrive only on the Saturday.

Deadly clashes

Poroshenko is due to be inaugurated as President Saturday of a nation riven by division.

Deadly clashes this week between pro-Russia separatists and the Ukrainian military in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions suggest the situation is becoming no less volatile in the wake of last month's election. Two military bases have been seized by separatists and a number of civilian deaths have been reported.

Kiev and the West have said the separatists in Ukraine are coordinated and supplied by Russia, a claim that Moscow denies.

A CNN team on the ground near Slovyansk, a separatist hotbed, reported hearing artillery and rocket fire from Ukrainian positions close to the village or Krasny Liman, but saw no signs of air power being used.

The Ukrainian National Guard has blocked the main road into Slovyansk from Donetsk city, the regional capital, and less than a half mile separates the government and pro-Russia positions there.

The city appeared calm, although the team saw one family being evacuated.

Amid the heightened East-West tensions, NATO defense ministers met Wednesday in Brussels.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said before meeting it was a timely opportunity "to discuss our shared concerns over Russia's illegal aggression against Ukraine."

The alliance has come to the fore in recent weeks as former Soviet states which are now NATO members seek reassurance amid heightened concerns following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

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