US President urges Putin to pursue diplomacy
WASHINGTON : US President Barack Obama has urged President Vladimir Putin to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine, in a lengthy telephone call. In their hour-long conversation, the Russian leader said Moscow-Washington relations should not suffer.
Russian troops have taken de facto control of Crimea following the fall of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president. The crisis has led to a boycott by many foreign dignitaries of the Sochi Winter Paralympics, which open on Friday. President Obama stressed to Russia’s president that his country’s actions in Crimea were a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, the White House said in a statement.
He said there was a solution available that suited all parties, involving talks between Kiev and Moscow, international monitors in Ukraine and Russian forces returning to their bases. For his part, President Putin said US-Russian “relations should not be sacrificed due to disagreements over individual, albeit extremely significant, international problems,” the Kremlin said.
It was the two leaders’ second telephone call concerning Ukraine in less than a week. It comes after the EU and US joined Ukraine’s government in condemning as “illegal” a move by the Crimea region to set up a referendum to endorse joining Russia. The Crimean parliament on Thursday said it had decided “to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation” and asked President Putin “to start the procedure”. MPs in Crimea – whose population is mostly ethnic Russian – earlier set a date of 16 March for a referendum on the issue.