President Obama warned Friday that western leaders are preparing "broader-based" sanctions aimed at whole sectors of the Russian economy if Moscow does not calm the flaring crisis in Ukraine.
Following another round of U.S. sanctions earlier this week, Obama said the next step will be sanctions aimed at sectors of the Russian economy, including the energy, arms and finance sectors. Obama said he hopes not to have to use such sanctions, but will if Russia's disruptions threaten Ukraine elections scheduled for May 25.
The president spoke alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Rose Garden following a meeting with his German counterpart. Obama said the two allies are "united" in support for Ukraine and "unwavering" in their commitment to defending NATO nations.
They spoke as Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russian separatists clashed violently Friday in key cities. At least two helicopters were shot down, and the interim president said "many" pro-Russian rebels had been killed.
Obama voiced support for the Ukrainian government on the day of its first major offensive aimed at driving out the insurgents occupying government buildings across the east. He said Kiev is moving to "restore order."
"The last thing we want is disorder and chaos in the center of Europe," Obama said.
The president reiterated that Russia needs to use its influence over paramilitary groups to disarm them. He said the notion that these are spontaneous protests in eastern Ukraine is "belied by all the evidence."
He said the country will face "increasing costs" if it does not.
"There are a range of approaches that can be taken," he said.
"Further sanctions will be unavoidable," Merkel said.
Obama said he and Merkel agreed there will be increasing costs for Russia if it doesn't de-escalate the crisis.
The Kremlin says Ukraine's action, though, has destroyed a recently struck diplomatic agreement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.