President Obama spoke today by phone with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on the situations in Ukraine and Syria. Regarding Ukraine, President Obama expressed strong support for the ongoing efforts of the Normandy Group, led by Germany and France, to determine a way forward that leads to rapid and full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. Both leaders urged the parties to continue respecting the cease-fire, begin the disengagement of forces along the line of contact as quickly as possible, and provide international monitors unfettered access to the entire conflict zone. The President and Chancellor strongly condemned the barbarous Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes against eastern Aleppo, an area populated with hundreds of thousands of civilians, half of whom are children. They agreed Russia and the Syrian regime bear special responsibility for ending the fighting in Syria and granting the UN humanitarian access to besieged and hard to reach areas in Syria.