President Obama had a series of brief meetings Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing as the White House said it was looking at ways to get tougher on Russia over its continuing aggression in Ukraine.

"On three occasions throughout the day, for a total of approximately 15-20 minutes, President Obama had an opportunity to speak with President Putin. Their conversations covered Iran, Syria, and Ukraine," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

Meanwhile, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes hinted that reports Russia was rearming rebels in eastern Ukraine could trigger a new round of sanctions against Moscow.

“Clearly what we’ve seen is a troubling focus from President Putin on the situation in Ukraine that is going to demand a response from the international community going forward,” he told reporters in Beijing.

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