Obama confers with European leaders for next steps on Ukraine

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and European leaders are conferring about next steps for dealing with the crisis in Ukraine.

The White House says Obama held a joint call Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande (frahn-SWAH’ oh-LAWND’), British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

The call comes as the U.S. and European Union weigh tougher sanctions against Russia. The West accuses separatists in eastern Ukraine of shooting down a passenger jet earlier this month and blames Russia for supplying the rebels with equipment that can take down a plane.

Tougher U.S. sanctions are expected this week. The EU also reached a preliminary deal last week on sanctions that would target Russia’s access to European capital markets and trade in the defense sector and sensitive technologies.

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