Ukraine crisis: Putin calls Obama to discuss situation as Russia positions 40,000 troops along border

Obama urges Putin to 'de-escalate the situation'

US Editor

The White House said on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had called President Barack Obama and expressed a willingness to seek a diplomatic solution to the continuing stand-off over Crimea, offering a first glimmer of a path towards easing tensions caused by the crisis.

Officials said that Mr Putin appeared to be responding to the outlines of a possible diplomatic off-ramp that was tabled by US Secretary of State John Kerry during talks in The Hague last week with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The full details of what the US has proposed are still not known.

“President Obama suggested that Russia put a concrete response in writing and the presidents agreed that Kerry and Lavrov would meet to discuss next steps”, the White House said.  The telephone call was placed by Mr Putin to Mr Obama who spent Friday on an official visit to Saudi Arabia.

“President Obama noted that the Ukrainian government continues to take a restrained and de-escalatory approach to the crisis and is moving ahead with constitutional reform and democratic elections, and urged Russia to support this process and avoid further provocations, including the buildup of forces on its border with Ukraine."

In the call, which was the first time the two leaders have spoken since the US imposed sanctions on Russia, Mr Obama urged a withdrawal of Russian troops who have been massing at the border with Ukraine.  Moscow has said they are there for routine military exercises but the US has become increasingly concerned that Mr Putin might be preparing for new incursions into Russian speaking areas of eastern Ukraine beyond Crimea.

US officials have said that the positions of the troops, believed to number about 40,000, are being deliberately concealed and that supply lines for a possible invasion have already been established.

Read more: 'Russia threatened countries ahead of vote'

The massing of its soldiers may “be an effort to intimidate Ukraine or it may be (that Russia) has additional plans,” Mr Obama said in interview with CBS recorded before Mr Putin’s call.  Such a force could be used to stage lightning strikes into other parts of eastern Ukraine where there are large Russian populations.  More difficult to ascertain, however, has been the actual intentions of President Putin.

In the interview, Mr Obama appealed to Moscow to “de-escalate the situation. The President attributed the taking of Crime, to a long-festering sulk on the part of Mr Putin dating the Soviet Union’s collapse. “I think he’s been willing to show a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union,” Mr. Obama said as he left Rome for Saudi Arabia after days of meetings in Europe dominated by discussions of the crisis.

“You would have thought that after a couple of decades that there’d be an awareness on the part of any Russian leader that the path forward is not to revert back to the kinds of practices that were so prevalent during the Cold War,” Mr Obama said, “but in fact to move forward with further integration with the world economy and to be a responsible international citizen.”

Any further land-grabs by Mr Putin would be in spite of efforts by Mr Obama and the European Union to isolate him diplomatically and financially. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said Moscow should also heed the easy passage on Thursday of a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning the snatching of Crimea, even if it had no legal teeth.

The St Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya conceded publicly on Friday that it had been forced to give up all its foreign currency business and execute only rouble-expressed transactions as a direct result of US sanctions directed against it because of the Crimea annexation.   The US Congress meanwhile is expected early next week to pass a new law extending $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and new sanctions on Russia.

In a Kremlin ceremony meanwhile, Mr Putin celebrated the taking of Crimea saying it showed the prowess of the Russian military. “The recent events in Crimea were a serious test,” Mr Putin was seen declaring on state television. “They demonstrated both the completely new capabilities of our Armed Forces and the high morale of the personnel.”

The US State Department has played down suggestions by Ukraine’s ambassador to the US that as many as 100,000 Russian soldiers now threaten his country. But Washington accepts that the numbers are nonetheless growing. “We continue to see the Russian military reinforce units on their side of the border with Ukraine to the south and to the east of Ukraine,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said. “They continue to reinforce and it continues to be unclear exactly what the intent there is.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions