WASHINGTON -- President Obama spoke Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since the United States and the European Union hit Russia with new sanctions over its activities in Ukraine.
Obama "reiterated his deep concerns about Russia's increased support for the separatists in Ukraine," said a brief statement from the White House. "The President reinforced his preference for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and the two leaders agreed to keep open their channels of communication."
The two presidents also discussed U.S. claims that Russian missile tests are violating a 1987 arms control treaty.
Vice President Biden, meanwhile, spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about $8 million in new U.S. assistance to the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service.
Biden and Poroshenko "also discussed Russia's deeply destabilizing efforts to continue supplying weapons to its proxies in eastern Ukraine and the increasing prevalence of artillery and rocket fire coming from the Russian side of the border," said the White House.
While previous sanctions have targeted specific individuals and businesses, the ones announce this week are aimed at major sectors of the Russian economy, including oil, banking, arms, and finance.