Saturday, 29 March 2014

Putin, Obama chat about Crimea

Moscow - Russian President Vladimir Putin called US
President Obama Friday to discuss a US proposal for
a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, the
White House said.

Obama suggested that Russia provide a concrete
written response to a plan US Secretary of State John
Kerry presented to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov
at the Hague earlier in the week.

Obama, who arrived in Saudi Arabia Friday on the
final leg of an overseas trip, also urged Russia to
avoid further provocations, including the buildup of
forces on its border with Ukraine, and to support the
Ukrainian government's restrained and de-
escalatory approach. He said a diplomatic path
remained possible only if Russia pulled back its
troops and did not take any steps to further violate
Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The Russian news agency Itar-Tass said Putin told
Obama that extremists in Ukraine continued to
"rampage." He said extremists were committing
acts of intimidation against civilians, institutions
and law enforcers in different parts of Ukraine and
do so with impunity, Itar-Tass said, quoting the
Kremlin's press service.

In this context Putin suggested considering steps by
the international community to help stabilize the
situation in Ukraine. A senior Obama administration
official later described the proposal the presidents
discussed as "the latest iteration of a working
document" that Kerry and Lavrov "have been
working on to de-escalate the situation."

The proposal includes "general elements of an off-
ramp, including: international monitors, pull back of
Russian forces, and direct Russia-Ukraine dialogue -
supported by the international community," the
official said. Also on Friday, United Nations Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon said that Putin told him he had
no military designs on Ukraine.

"President Putin told me that he had no intention to
make any military move," Ban said after briefing the
UN Security Council on his recent trip to Russia and
Ukraine. "At the same time, President Putin also
expressed his concern about the extreme, radical
elements," Ban said.
Meanwhile, earlier Friday ousted Ukrainian president
Viktor Yanukovych called for every region in Ukraine
to hold a referendum on whether to remain in the
former Soviet republic, nearly two weeks after
Crimea voted to join Russia.


Putin praises army
"As the president, ... I call on each reasonable citizen
of Ukraine - don't let the impostors use you," he was
quoted as saying in a statement by Russia's Itar-
Tass news agency. "Demand a referendum on the
determination of the status of each region within
Ukraine."

Yanukovych, a pro-Russian leader who fled Ukraine
for Russia in late February after three months of
protests against his government, argued that only a
country-wide referendum and not an early
presidential election could stabilize the political
situation in the country, which is now being run by
an interim pro-Western government.

Russia annexed Crimea after its referendum, which
was internationally condemned and not recognized.
Putin praised the Russian military's actions in
Crimea, where it has taken over all military bases in
a region that had been an autonomous republic
within Ukraine. He said the operations showed
Russia's combat readiness.

"The recent events in Crimea were a very serious
test, and they showed the quality of the new
capabilities of our armed forces as well as the high
morale of men and officers," Putin said at a meeting
with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. Putin ordered
Ukrainian troops who still wished to serve Ukraine to
surrender their weapons and equipment and leave
Crimea.

Shoigu said all troops loyal to Russia would retain
their weaponry. "The replacement of the symbols of
state on all ships and bases is completed," he said.

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