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POLITICS: PennAve

Vladimir Putin calls Obama to discuss Ukraine crisis

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Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama on Friday to discuss the “U.S. proposal for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine,” the White House announced.

During the call with Obama, who is in Saudi Arabia -- his latest stop on a weeklong overseas trip -- the two leaders agreed that Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would continue to discuss the diplomatic proposal first presented by the U.S. to Russia earlier this week.

“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,” said the White House in a statement.

Obama expressed U.S. support for Ukraine’s interim government in his talk with Putin.

“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,” said the White House.

He also urged Russia to do more to de-escalate the situation and pursue a “diplomatic path” to resolve the crisis amid reports that Moscow has massed military troops near its borders with Ukraine.

“President Obama made clear that this remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” said the statement. “President Obama reiterated that the United States has strongly opposed the actions that Russia has already taken to violate Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The U.S. and European allies have slammed Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, but Putin has refused to back down.

The Obama administration and European Union instituted sanctions against a number of key Russian officials and have threatened additional measures hitting key sectors of the Russian economy if there are further incursions onto Ukrainian territory.

In an interview with CBS aired early Friday, Obama urged Putin to “move back” troops and said the Russian leader was “misreading” U.S. intentions.

“What I have repeatedly said is that he may be entirely misreading the West. He is certainly misreading U.S. foreign policy,” Obama said. “We have no interest in encircling Russia and we have no interest in Ukraine beyond letting the Ukrainian people make their decisions about their own lives.”

A Russian statement on the call said that Putin also raised the issue of Transnistria — a breakaway region of Moldova with a strong Russian presence.

"Vladimir Putin also pointed out that Transnistria is essentially experiencing a blockade, which significantly complicate the living conditions for the region’s residents, impeding their movement and normal trade and economic activities," said the Kremlin. "He stressed that Russia stands for the fair and comprehensive settlement of the Transnistria conflict and hopes for effective work in the existing 5+2 negotiation format."

The White House, though, made no mention of Transnistria.

Putin has vowed that he will protect the interests of ethnic Russians throughout the region, even as the international community has warned him to respect the sovereignty of other nations.

This story was published at 5:26 p.m. and has been updated.

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