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US encourages more sanctions

BY LARA JAKES AND LORI HINNANT Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The United States is working to convince a reluctant Europe of the need to punish Russia more severely for its meddling in Ukraine while at the same time warning Moscow to step back or take more financial hits.

It's a difficult balancing act for Europe, which wants to make Russia pay for its aggression but fears the economic turmoil from the fallout of new, harsher trade sanctions by the West.

Europe is Russia's largest trading partner and therefore has huge sway over Russia's shaky economy.

Economists say the U.S. risks appearing weak without support from Europe. But Europe is far from ready to levy penalties against Moscow that would undercut its own financial stability and possibly endanger its main source of energy.

President Barack Obama has signed orders that would allow the U.S. to penalize key Russian industries. European Union foreign ministers are set to meet Monday to decide what additional penalties to impose if Russia continues to ignore the West's warnings.

As Ukraine deals with potential bankruptcy as well as Russian troops along its eastern border, the White House announced Saturday that Vice President Joe Biden would leave for Kiev for meetings with government officials on April 22.

His trip may overlap slightly with Obama's trip to Asia.

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