Ukraine president gives dim outlook to Biden

Efforts to negotiate a ceasefire with pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have gone nowhere, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told Vice President Biden in a call Thursday afternoon.

Poroshenko said that Moscow and rebel leaders had refused multiple proposed venues for peace talks intended to end the months-long crisis. 

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The apparent impasse surfaced just after Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a phone call with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he supported “a swift renewal of the ceasefire” and meetings between separatists and Kiev, according to the Kremlin.

According to Hollande's office, the French and German leaders also asked Putin to take “concrete measures required to control the Russia-Ukraine border.” The U.S. and Europe say Russia has been allowing mercenaries and heavy artillery, including tanks and rocket launchers, to cross from Russia into Ukraine to assist the separatists.

The White House indicated Thursday that it could move forward with the long-threatened next round of sanctions against Russia over the inability to resume peace talks.

“The Vice President told President Poroshenko that the United States was discussing with its partners in the international community the need to hold Russia accountable for its continued support for the separatists, including its provision of heavy weapons and equipment across the border,” the vice president's office said.

Earlier Thursday, press secretary Josh Earnest brushed aside criticism that the administration had already waited too long to take further action against Moscow.

“The United States, in concert with our allies, stands prepared to act, if necessary,” he said. “And it’s important to understand the goal that we’re pursuing here. We’re not just pursuing a temporary halt to the violence — although we’d certainly welcome that. We want to make sure that Russia understands that the United States and the international community will not stand by as they continue to try to destabilize the political situation and the economy in Ukraine.”