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Jan 15, 3:49 PM EST

Obama, Merkel discuss increased violence in Ukraine

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House says President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have discussed their concern about increased violence in eastern Ukraine.

Obama and Merkel spoke Thursday. Their discussion came shortly after Russian-backed separatists announced they had captured the wrecked remains of a symbolically important airport in the city of Donetsk.

The gains further dashed hopes of a lasting peace accord between Ukraine and the rebels. Still, the White House says Obama and Merkel discussed the need for there to be a "lasting and peaceful resolution to the conflict."

Ukraine and Russia are expected to hold talks Friday in Belarus. However, separatist leaders have declined to attend.

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