U.S. President Barack Obama says Russian forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine and that world's major powers stand ready to impose tougher sanctions if needed. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday (June 8) that Russian forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine despite Moscow's denials and that the world's major industrial democracies stood ready to impose significantly tougher sanctions if necessary. Obama told a news conference after a Group of Seven industrial nations' summit in Germany that existing sanctions would remain in place until Moscow and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine fully respected a ceasefire agreement negotiated in Minsk in February. "As we've seen again in recent days, Russian forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine, violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Obama said. "Russia is in deep recession. So Russia's actions in Ukraine are hurting Russia and hurting the Russian people," he said. "And the G7 is making it clear that if necessary we stand ready to impose additional significant sanctions against Russia." Obama's statement echoed the call by G7 leaders in the Bavarian Alps on Sunday (June 7) to keep sanctions against Russia in place until President Vladimir Putin and Moscow-backed separatists fully implement the terms of a peace deal for Ukraine. The Ukraine conflict and a long-running debt standoff between Greece and its European partners dominated the first day of the annual meeting hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel at Schloss Elmau, a luxury Alpine hotel in southern Germany. The leaders want Russia and Ukraine to comply with a Feb. 12 ceasefire agreed in the Belarus capital Minsk that largely halted fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces. EU leaders agreed in March that sanctions imposed over Russia's seizure and annexation of Crimea and detribalization of eastern Ukraine would stay until the Minsk ceasefire was fully applied, effectively extending them to the end of the year, but a formal decision has yet to be taken.