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
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower