German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to Washington D.C. Friday morning for a meeting with President Obama at the White House. The two leaders spoke to reporters after meeting for nearly an hour and a half in the Oval Office. President Obama said most of the discussion between the two leaders revolved around the urgent situation in Ukraine. Both leaders strongly criticized the ongoing Russian interference in Eastern Ukraine in their comments.

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Statements from Obama

“If the Russian leadership does not change course, it will face increasing costs,” Obama commented in his remarks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House. He continued, warning Russia, “The next step is going to be a broader base sectoral sanctions regime.”

“As Ukrainian forces move to restore order in Eastern Ukraine, it is obvious to the world that these Russian-backed groups are not peaceful protesters,” Obama went on. “They are heavily armed militants that are receiving support from Russia.”

Merkel statement

German Chancellor Merkel only spoke briefly, saying, “The post-Cold War order has been put into question,” and adding that Germany would offer support for specific sectoral sanctions.

Ukraine army attacking rebel-held Slovanysk

The breaking news today in the rapidly evolving Ukraine story is that the Ukrainian army began an assault on the pro-Russian rebel-held city of Slovyansk. According to a statement from Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, Ukrainian troops met strong resistance Friday, but managed to dislodge rebels from nine checkpoints on the roads around Slovyansk. The statement also called on the insurgents to cease fighting and release the numerous hostages they are holding.

“We are ready to negotiate with protesters and their representatives,” Avakov said. “But for terrorists and armed separatists there is only punishment.”

In a later afternoon report, the Ukrainian Security Service said around half of Slovyansk was in the control of the Ukrainian army, although that report could not yet be verified. Two helicopters were shot down by the pro-Russian insurgents, and the pilot of one was reportedly captured. Insurgents interviewed by the media confirmed that Ukrainian army forces had been seen at several locations throughout the city.