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US, European leaders express solidarity with Ukraine

Thursday - 9/4/2014, 12:30pm  ET

NEWPORT, Wales (AP) -- A White House official says President Barack Obama and four European leaders express solidarity with Ukraine today in a meeting with that country's president, and agreed that Russia should be punished for its conduct in Ukraine.

Obama and the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy sat down with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as NATO leaders meet in Wales.

Poroshenko is also meeting today with the heads of state and government from all 28 NATO member states. But NATO officials have made it clear that membership for Ukraine isn't in the cards anytime soon.

Today's meetings come as Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of Ukraine appear increasingly close to signing a deal to end four months of fighting. Ukraine's president says he's ready to order a cease-fire tomorrow if a peace deal is signed at talks in Belarus. And the rebels say they're ready to declare a truce if there's an agreement on a political settlement for the region.

But Russia's foreign minister says Ukraine's desire to join NATO is "a blatant attempt to derail all the efforts" to seek a peaceful solution in Ukraine.

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171-r-30-(Sound of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (SEHR'-gay LAHV'-rahf), speaking in Russian, at meeting with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe representatives)--Sound of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying in Russian that while there is positive movement between Kiev and militant separatists in eastern Ukraine, there is an unhelpful development as Ukraine seeks to join NATO. (4 Sep 2014)

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APPHOTO LON808: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, front left, speaks with U.S. President Barack Obama, front right, as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, looks on as they arrive for a group photo during a NATO summit on the grounds of the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. World leaders gathered at the golf resort in Wales for a high-stakes NATO summit. While the official agenda will focus on the crisis in Ukraine and the drawdown of the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan, the rise of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria will dominate discussions on the sidelines of the summit.(AP Photo/ Chris Ratcliffe/PA) UNITED KINGDOM OUT (4 Sep 2014)

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