Obama, Cameron give Putin deadline on Ukraine

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BRUSSELS — President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron laid down new markers for Russia Thursday, giving Moscow a month to meet conditions in Ukraine or face further sanctions that will hit key sectors of Russia’s economy.

The new thresholds for action were laid out at a joint press conference, following a Group of Seven world leader summit that was re-arranged to exclude Russian President Vladimir Putin after aggressive moves in Ukraine. Cameron said Putin’s actions are completely unacceptable and at odds with the group’s democratic values.

To avoid even harsher sanctions, Cameron said, Putin must meet three conditions: recognize the Petro Poroshenko’s election as the new leader in Kiev, stop arms from crossing the border and cease support for pro-Russian separatist groups concentrated in eastern Ukraine.

“If these things don’t happen, then sectoral sanctions will follow,” Cameron said, standing before a row of U.S. and British flags. “The next month will be vital in judging if President Putin has taken these steps. And that is what I will urge President Putin to do when I meet him later today.”

Putin’s meetings with Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel illustrate how Obama and European leaders are taking different strategies for dealing with Putin after trying to isolate him over his moves in Ukraine, including Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

But Obama said the G-7 leaders unanimously agree with the steps Cameron outlined, although they were not so explicit in written statements issued after two days of meetings.

“If Mr. Putin takes those steps, then it is possible for us to begin to rebuild trust between Russia and its neighbors and Europe,” Obama said. “We will have a chance to see what Mr. Putin does over the next two, three, four weeks, and if he remains on the current course, then we’ve already indicated that kinds of actions that we’re prepared to take.

Obama said he thought the fact Putin didn’t immediately denounce the outcome of Ukraine’s election last month offers hope he’s moving in a different direction. “But I think we have to see what he does and not what he says,” he added.

The G-7 meeting was originally supposed to take place in Sochi, Russia, and include Putin, but the leaders froze him out and moved the site to Brussels after Russia annexed Crimea.

Obama was flying to Paris later Thursday for dinner with Hollande, who later planned to dine a second time with Putin so the U.S. and Russian leaders would not have to cross paths.

But Hollande noted that Obama and Putin would be at events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy Friday, along with other leaders including Poroshenko. It remained unclear if Putin and Poroshenko would talk.

“The important thing is we have the same language, the same arguments on Ukraine all together,” Hollande said in a brief exchange with reporters traveling with Obama. “We are seven.”

NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press

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