Updated at: 01/29/2015 11:52 AM
(AP) WASHINGTON - WASHINGTON (AP) â€” Vice President Joe Biden says Russia must face increasing penalties unless it changes course on Ukraine.
Biden spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (por-oh-SHEHN'-koh) on Wednesday, just as advances by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine were threatening to torpedo the chances of reviving an internationally brokered peace deal reached in September.
Biden says Russia is blatantly disregarding its obligations under that deal. The White House says Biden and Poroshenko also discussed how the separatists' actions are taking a heavy toll on Ukraine's civilian population. The White House describes those advances as a "Russian-backed offensive."
The call comes as separatists say they've almost fully encircled government forces in a town that hosts a strategic railway hub. Capturing that town would be a decisive new victory for the separatists.
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