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U.S. demands ‘concrete steps’ by Moscow on Ukraine

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday urged Russia to take “concrete steps” to implement an agreement on defusing the crisis in Ukraine.

The accord, struck last week in Geneva, was meant to lower the heat on the worst confrontation between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War, but each side has accused the other of violating it.

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In a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry said the steps should include “publicly calling on separatists to vacate illegal buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and address their grievances politically,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

“He also called on Russia to assign a senior diplomat to work with the OSCE mission in eastern Ukraine, to make absolutely clear to the separatists that Russia supports the agreement and wants de-escalation.

“He also called on Russia to speak out against the seizing of journalists and other innocents as hostages,” she said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has threatened to slap more sanctions on Moscow, beyond ones already imposed by the United States and the European Union targeting the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin, if the pact is not implemented soon.

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White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted Washington was ready to make good on its threat, warning that “if progress is not made in coming days we will impose further costs” on Russia.

Carney however declined to provide a deadline for action.

Kerry’s conversation with Lavrov came as US Vice President Joe Biden began a two-day visit to Kiev in a show of support for its government.

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The Geneva accord, signed by Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the EU, calls for all “illegal armed groups” in Ukraine to surrender their weapons and halt the occupation of public buildings and other sites.

But a brief Easter truce was broken on Sunday when two insurgents were killed in the rebel-held eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk.

Carney said the United States could not independently confirm who initiated the clash, said to have occurred at a roadblock manned by the separatists.

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But he stressed Washington continued to lay blame for much of the unrest in eastern Ukraine at the feet of Kremlin-backed forces.

“We’re still assessing the events of the weekend, but there’s no question that the overall situation has been greatly worsened by the intervention of armed militants who have seized buildings, stockpiled weapons, blockaded roads and done so in the name of either joining Russia or being independent and being generally pro-Russia,” Carney said.

“Russia has influence over the groups that have engaged in that activity… and we continue to call on Russia to use that influence to pressure those groups to disarm and to return the buildings to authorities.”

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[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Rachel Maddow reveals 9 major reasons so many Democrats are running against Trump in 2020

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The host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC listed nine major reasons Democrats are running to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.

"As we close in on the third round of Democratic presidential primary debates, the acute angle of the funnel that the candidates are going through right now is starting to pinch a little bit," Maddow noted.

"I think it’s fair to say that the Democratic Party knew that a lot of people were going to get into this presidential primary to try to earn the right to challenge this incumbent president. Right? It’s not rocket science to figure that out," she continued. "It’s nothing personal about the president."

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WATCH: Joy Reid warns Trump is going to ‘tank the U.S. economy — just before Christmas’

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MSNBC's Joy Reid warned President Donald Trump is going to 'tank' the United States economy.

Reid was interviewed by Chris Hayes on a broadcast of "All In" with a live studio crowd on Friday.

"This new round of tariffs would increase everything," Reid noted. "Something like 70% of what you buy in Walmart is sourced from China."

"And so if you raise the prices — that’s tariffs are -- by 25% or 30%, you are essentially going to tank the U.S. economy just before Christmas," she warned.

"Kicking brown people out of the country is expensive," she said.

"If you're willing to go broke, if you are willing to lose your farm, willing to lose everything because you hate brown people so much you are willing to literally kill yourself economically for it," she said.

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Democrat mocks Trump for being the wrong person to lead the charge on mental illness

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President Donald Trump may not be the best person to focus on mental health in America, a Democratic senator explained on MSNBC.

"All In" host Chris Hayes interviewed Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) before a live studio audience.

The two discussed Trump's focus on mental health instead of gun control following the latest mass shootings in America.

"I saw this article about the mental health proposal being floated. I gotta say, the more I hear him talk about mental health, the more freaked out I get, honestly," Hayes explained. "It seems like — like sci-fi dystopia. They want to do something like DARPA, the notorious Pentagon research association called HARPA. It’s going to develop 'breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence...The document goes on to list a number of widely used technologies it suggests could be used to help collect data, including Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home."

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