TODAY   |  April 18, 2014

Ukraine crisis escalates as Geneva talks continue

Pro-Russian insurgents say they won’t leave buildings they occupy until the interim Ukrainian government resigns; meanwhile, U.S. confidence wanes regarding current talks in Geneva. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>> new demands this morning from the pro-russian insurgents in ukraine. they say they won't leave buildings they occupy until the interim ukrainian government resigns. the u.s. is not certain an agreement thursday in geneva will diffuse the crisis. peter alexander is covering it all for us.

>> u.s. officials back from those talks in geneva have signaled the agreement was designed to put a test in place so that if russia doesn't hold up its end of the bargain, the u.s. could more easily move forward with stricter sanctions. in eastern ukraine this morning, a pause in the violence just one day after russian and ukrainian leaders met, agreeing to disarm any legal forces and find a diplomatic solution. in washington, president obama signaled he's skeptical about the deal and insisted the u.s. is prepared so slap fresh sanctions on moscow if russia doesn't keep its commitment to restore order.

>> my hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days, but i don't think given past performance that we can count on that.

>> reporter: during a televised q&a thursday, russian president vladimir putin again denied that uniformed militias in eastern ukraine are russians, reaffirming his right to control ukraine, even referring to it as the new russia . administration officials are strongly condemning reports of pamphlets in eastern ukraine warning jews to register, which secretary of state john kerry called grotesque and beyond unacceptable. and witnesses say masked men handed out those fliers outside a synagogue after a passover service this week. this morning, pro-russian groups there are denying having anything to do with it.

>> peter alexander in washington for us. thank you, peter.