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Ukraine: EU and US mull further Russia sanctions

The EU and the US say they will impose “further costs” on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, as unrest continues in the east of the country.

EU foreign ministers said on Monday they would expand a list of names targeted by EU sanctions.

Tension has been rising in Ukraine, with pro-Russian activists occupying buildings in more eastern towns.

Also on Monday, the US said a Russian fighter jet repeated close-range passes over a US warship in the Black Sea.

US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Monday evening.

Mr Putin told Mr Obama that allegations of Russian interference in Ukraine were “based on questionable information”.

The unrest in the east was the result “of the unwillingness and inability of the leadership in Kiev to take into account the interests of the Russian-speaking population”, the Kremlin said.

The White House said Mr Obama told Mr Putin of his “grave concern” about Russian support for armed separatists and he urged the Russian leader to use his influence with pro-Moscow groups to convince them to leave occupied buildings.

He warned: “The costs Russia already has incurred will increase if those actions persist.”

After a meeting in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers said they had decided to expand “the list of those subject to assets freezes and visa bans”.

Earlier, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague had told reporters that he believed the seizure of official buildings in eastern Ukrainian towns and cities “is something that is being planned and brought about by Russia”.

Moscow denies fomenting the unrest.

EU foreign ministers also approved measures to provide up to 1bn euros (£800m; $1.4bn) of economic assistance to Ukraine.

The ministers backed “the temporary reduction or elimination of customs duties” for Ukrainian exports to the EU.

In Washington, the US signed a $1bn loan guarantee agreement for Ukraine after a meeting between US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksandr Shlapak.

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