Putin to Obama: Use your influence to prevent bloodshed in Ukraine
United States President Barack Obama placed a phone call to Mr. Putin on Monday afternoon (EST) to discuss the ongoing and increasingly tense situation in eastern Ukraine amid growing concerns surrounding the country’s future stability following the recent ousting of Pres. Viktor Yanukovych earlier this year, and the turmoil that has gripped the region ever since.
According to a statement released after the phone conversation by the Kremlin, Putin dismissed recent reports that peg Russia as being responsible for heated protests that have erupted in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian activists have successfully managed to seize a number of local government buildings and police stations.
"In response to the president of the United States' expressed concern about Russia's supposed meddling in southeastern Ukraine, the president of Russia noted that such speculations are based on inaccurate information," the press statement read.
Putin stressed that protests in several south-east regions of Ukraine are a result of “the Kiev authorities’ unwillingness and inability to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population,” read a Kremlin press service statement.
The Russian president called upon Obama to use all of the capabilities at his disposal, “to prevent the use of force and bloodshed,” and also reportedly denied that his government has had any involvement in the recent unrest during the call, according to the official statement.
“The president noted that such speculation is based on unreliable information,” the Kremlin said.
At the same time, Obama called on Putin to use his influence over pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine to “depart the buildings they have seized,” the White House said in a statement. “The president reiterated the importance of Russia withdrawing its troops from Ukraine’s border in order to defuse tensions.”
Representatives for Russia, the US and Ukraine are expected to meet with colleagues from the EU later this week in Geneva to discuss the recent series of events and what could come next, but the Kremlin said that both Putin and Obama agreed during Monday’s phone call that diplomatic cooperation must continue ahead of that meeting, currently scheduled for April 17.
In the meantime, the Kremlin said that Putin suggested during Monday’s phone call that Ukraine begin focusing on a new constitution that “involves all political forces in the country, creating a federalized state and guaranteeing Ukraine's non-aligned status.”
Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the Russian media earlier that day that the Kremlin has been receiving pleas for help from Ukrainians as a result of the events unfolding in the eastern part of the country.
“He is getting a lot of appeals addressed personally to him, asking him to intervene in one way or another. He is monitoring the situation in Ukraine with great concern,” Peskov stated.
On Sunday evening, Kiev threatened "full-scale" military force if protesters and paramilitaries refused to vacate the occupied government buildings by Monday morning, but that deadline came and went without action. Later, though, the US State Dept. and White House both weighed in on the matter and made conflicting statements about possibly supplying arms to Ukrainian forces.