PARIS: Presidents Francois Hollande of France and Barack Obama of the US share the same "concern" over the violence witnessed in east Ukraine over the past few days, the French presidency said in a statement Monday.
The two leaders voiced their worry in a telephone conversation in which Hollande expressed hope that a Geneva meeting on Thursday between representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the United States and Europe "will start a dialogue" to defuse the situation.
Hollande called for restraint in the largely Russian-speaking east, a tinderbox of separatist sentiment since pro-Western protests ousted Ukraine's Kremlin-backed government in February.
"He spoke of France's determination to put in place, with its European partners, a policy of firm, progressive sanctions," his office said.
Pro-Russian insurgents gained more ground Monday in eastern Ukraine, occupying a police station and an administrative building, their latest seizures in a campaign that threatens to break up the ex-Soviet state.