Obama talks Ukraine ceasefire with Merkel

Obama talks Ukraine ceasefire with Merkel
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President Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday about violence in eastern Ukraine — and about how to build on the ceasefire that was due to go into effect at midnight local time.

The ceasefire, betweeen the forces of the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia rebels, was agreed at talks in Minsk, Belarus on Thursday. A ceasefire that emerged from talks in the same city in September soon crumbled.

Obama and Merkel expressed concern over the fighting in and around the city of Debaltseve, according to a White House readout of the call. 

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The U.S. released photos earlier on Saturday that it said showed Russian armaments being used to aid separatists in an assault on the Ukrainian Army.

One of the images purported to show smoky plumes of "multiple rocket launcher deployment" in Debaltseve.

Obama and Merkel also agreed on the need for all signatories to implement the ceasefire. 

Obama spoke separately with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about the "mounting toll" of the fighting in eastern Ukraine and agreed to stay in contact as the ceasefire is implemented. 

The White House readout of the Poroshenko call emphasized that "both leaders stressed the importance of establishing a lasting peace that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and unity."

The calls were both made while Obama was traveling on Air Force One, the White House said. 
 
Estimates of the number of people who have been killed in the conflict in Ukraine vary wildly. But the more conservative estimates put the toll at around 5,400 people. The United Nations puts the number of fatalities much higher, according to a BBC report.