US warns Russia 'costs will rise' unless peace deal agreed

The White House said President Barack Obama urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call to agree to a peace deal.

"If Russia continues its aggressive actions in Ukraine, including by sending troops, weapons, and financing to support the separatists, the costs for Russia will rise," the White House statement added.

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Report: Ceasefire agreed in Ukraine crisis talks

Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, pro-Russian rebels and the security watchdog have agreed a ceasefire and a scheme for the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the TASS news agency reports.

The news agency, which quoted an unnamed source, said discussions were ongoing regarding the legal status of rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine and local elections in the area.

It came as the White House said President Obama had called President Putin to urge him to agree a peace deal.

He also warned that Russia faces rising "costs" if it continues its "aggressive actions in Ukraine".

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Hammond: UK 'has not ruled out' arming Ukraine

Philip Hammond said the UK has "not ruled out" providing "lethal aid" to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

"We could not allow the Ukrainian armed forces to collapse," he stated.

In the meantime, Hammond said the Government would continue with its strategy to "hurt, but not collapse" Russia's economy.

The Foreign Secretary said the situation in the region "now resembles, to all intents and purposes, a small scale conventional war."

Russia would 'act diplomatically' if US arms Ukraine

Russia will most likely respond diplomatically if the United States decides to supply weapons to Ukraine, the head of the Kremlin's Security Council was quoted as saying.

"If they supply weapons, it will be a further escalation of the conflict, it will grow," Nikolai Patrushev said, according to the TASS news agency.

"No, I think we will act diplomatically," he said, answering a question about possible retaliatory action by Russia if the US arms deliveries went ahead.

Russian troops start exercises ahead of Minsk summit

More than 600 Russian troops have started exercises in Crimea a day before a summit on the Ukraine crisis in the Belarussian capital Minsk, the RIA news agency reported.

RIA quoted Russia's Black Sea Fleet as saying that coastal defence units had started exercises in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in March. They were using around 50 units of weaponry, it added.

Russian troops are reported to have increased activity today. Credit: Reuters

About 2,000 Russian reconnaissance troops have also started exercises in southern Russia, Interfax news agency reported.

Interfax quoted an official at Russia's Southern Military District, parts of which are close to Ukraine, as saying the exercises would last a month.

The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany are expected to meet in Minsk on Wednesday to seek an end to fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Russian aggression 'reinforces unity of US and Europe'

Russian aggression in Ukraine has only reinforced the unity of the US and Europe, President Barack Obama has declared.

Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been holding talks about the prospects of reviving an elusive peace plan to end the conflict.

But while the talking continues, so does the killing in eastern Ukraine.

ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore reports:

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Obama: Russia cannot redraw Europe at barrel of a gun

US President Barack Obama warned Russia it cannot redraw Europe's borders "at the barrel of a gun," but stressed he and his German counterpart will continue to seek a diplomatic solution.

Amid calls from leading US senators to arm Ukraine in its conflict against pro-Russian separatists, Obama said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had agreed "the 21st Century cannot stand idle".

ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore reports:

US 'developing legislation' on weapons to Ukraine

Leaders of the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee are developing legislation to provide "defensive lethal assistance" for Ukraine, congressional aides have said.

A firefighter works to extinguish a fire at a residential block near Donetsk. Credit: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Representatives Mac Thornberry, the panel's Republican chairman, and Adam Smith, its top Democrat, are said to be "far along in discussions" on a bill to provide such military aid.

The US Senate and House unanimously passed legislation in December that authorised sending arms for Kiev to help defend Ukraine against a Russian-backed separatist movement.

Obama: Concern lethal weapons 'could fall in wrong hands'

US President Barack Obama has expressed concerns that lethal weapons and other military assistance provided to Ukraine could "fall into the wrong hands."

Ukrainian servicemen ride on a self-propelled howitzer in Debaltseve. Credit: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

"Can we be certain that any lethal aid that we provide Ukraine is used properly, doesn't fall into the wrong hands, does not lead to over-aggressive actions that can't be sustained by the Ukrainians?" Obama asked.

"What kinds of reactions does it prompt, not simply from the separatists but from the Russians? Those are all issues that have to be considered," he added.

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