Little sign of progress at Obama, Putin speak for first time in more than 2 weeks

The Associated Press

Armed pro-Russian activists walk through a street near to the seized Ukrainian regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 14, 2014. Ukraine's acting president urged the United Nations on Monday to send peacekeeping troops to eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian gunmen kept up their rampage of storming and occupying local government offices, police stations and a small airport. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

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Despite those assertions, it was unclear whether the U.S. planned to respond with deeper economic penalties. Obama has repeatedly warned that Russian advances into eastern Ukraine would mark a serious escalation of the crisis that would warrant a stronger international response, including the prospect of sanctions on Russia's energy sector and other key industries.

But the administration has avoided saying whether Russia's actions in the east thus far have crossed that line. U.S. officials are also still trying to rally support for sector sanctions from Europe, which has a far deeper economic relationship with Russia and would therefore be more likely to be negatively affected by the penalties.

As part of that effort, Obama spoke Monday with French President Francois Hollande. The French leader said in a statement that he and Obama discussed the importance of avoiding provocations in Ukraine and establishing a policy of strong and calibrated sanctions along with other European partners.

A high-ranking European Union official said foreign ministers did decide Monday to sanction more Russians with asset freezes and visa bans, though they appeared to stop short of the broader penalties on Russia's economy.

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Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Nedra Pickler in Washington and Greg Keller in Paris contributed to this report.

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