WASHINGTON, July 12 (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden encouraged Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday to pursue talks that could lead to a ceasefire with rebels and said Washington continued to pursue efforts to raise pressure on Russia, the White House said.
Ukrainian forces targeted positions on Saturday near the border with Russia from where separatists, using high-powered Grad missiles, bombarded an army motorized brigade on Friday, killing 23 servicemen.
Biden, who has been the point man for the White House on the Ukrainian crisis, spoke to Poroshenko by phone earlier in the day.
"President Poroshenko informed the vice president about the latest separatist attacks using heavy weapons on Ukrainian forces and the vice president expressed his condolences for the loss of life," the White House said in a statement.
"(Biden) expressed support for President Poroshenko's efforts to convene a meeting to discuss a possible ceasefire with the separatists, and informed Poroshenko of ongoing U.S. diplomatic efforts to work with our international partners to impose costs on Russia if it continues on its current course of providing the separatists with heavy weapons and equipment."
The United States has warned repeatedly that it would impose further sanctions, along with Western allies, against Russia if Moscow did not use its influence to tame the separatists and make peace with Kiev. (Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Dan Grebler)