Europe News

Obama skeptical about progress in Ukraine

Kerry on 'concrete steps' to ease Ukraine crisis

President Barack Obama is discussing further sanctions to impose on Russia if there is no progress on the Ukraine situation, though he said Thursday that he is skeptical. He also noted that military options are not on the table for assisting Ukraine.

The president's White House comments came hours after Russia's foreign minister said top diplomats have agreed to take immediate steps toward calming tensions in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the four parties gathered Thursday in Geneva -- the U.S., European Union, Ukraine and Russia -- will work to establish a broad national dialogue to ensure that people's rights are protected.

Yields on 10-year U.S. treasuries rose to session highs and Brent crude futures turned negative as markets reacted to the news.

"We worked hard and we worked in good faith in order to try and narrow our real differences, some of them significant," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a news conference after the agreement was reached.

"No one should expect the leaders of a sovereign state to always stand by passively while public order is threatened, and the public order in Ukraine has been threatened in recent days."

Joint statement on Ukraine crisis

Kerry also addressed reports that Jews in one Ukrainian city had been ordered to register or face deportation.

"In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and after all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it's grotesque, it's beyond unacceptable," he said.

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Russia's Lavrov said that amnesty will be given to pro-Russian protesters who participated in an uprising against the government in Kiev, except those found guilty of capital crimes.

The tentative agreement could put on hold -- for now at least -- economic sanctions the West had prepared to impose on Russia if the talks were fruitless.

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And that would ease international pressure both on Moscow and nervous European Union nations that depend on Russia for their energy.

—The Associated Press with and Reuters