WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama is expected to speak to several European leaders on Friday to try to nudge the EU toward fresh sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, sources familiar with the matter said.
Disagreements among European Union nations on whether to impose new economic sanctions on Russia have held up punitive steps by the United States, said the sources on condition of anonymity, but Washington could also act on its own.
US officials have grown increasingly impatient with what they describe as Russia's failure to live up to its commitments in an April 17 agreement reached in Geneva to try to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.
The United States is also frustrated at the reluctance of some European nations, notably Germany and Italy, to impose a new round of economic sanctions on Russia but it would much prefer to act in concert with the EU rather than on its own.
The sources said Obama was expected to speak in a conference call on Friday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to discuss the issue.
Comment from the White House was not immediately available.
Obama is in Asia on a four-nation trip. Speaking in Tokyo on Thursday, he blamed Russia for failing to carry out the Geneva deal and said he was ready to impose new sanctions.
A GRAVE AND EXPENSIVE MISTAKE
In a sign of growing US concern about Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry issued what amounted to a warning to Russia not to invade. Russia has some 40,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, some of which staged military exercises on Thursday.
"Following today's threatening movement of Russian troops right up to Ukraine's border, let me be clear: If Russia continues in this direction, it will not just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake," he said in a hastily arranged appearance at the State Department.