Ukraine crisis: Putin and Obama discuss diplomatic plan

President Barack Obama waves to Governor of Riyadh Prince Khalid Bandar bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud and other Saudi officials next to his helicopter in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, March 28, 2014 Barack Obama is visiting Saudi Arabia following a trip to Europe

Russia's Vladimir Putin has telephoned US President Barack Obama to discuss a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine.

They considered a US plan for a halt to Russia's military build-up on the border with Ukraine, a troop withdrawal in Crimea, and moves to protect the Russian speakers in the region.

Mr Putin stressed the threat posed by "extremists" in Kiev, the Kremlin said.

Russia's annexation of Crimea has sparked international condemnation.

In the hour-long phone call, the US president urged Mr Putin to avoid the build-up of forces on the Russian border.

"President Obama underscored to President Putin that the United States continues to support a diplomatic path... with the aim of de-escalation of the crisis," the White House said in a statement.

"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."

Mark Mardell reports: ''It does sound like the Russians are backing away from further conflict''

The two leaders agreed that their foreign ministers would meet soon to discuss the next steps.

The US proposal, developed in consultation with Ukraine and other European countries, includes the deployment of international monitors in Crimea to protect the rights of Russian speakers, and the return of Russian troops there to their bases.


If - as the White House insists -President Vladimir Putin was the one who initiated the phone call, then that is clearly a promising sign. It may mean that he thinks the military phase is over, at least for now, and Russia's best interests lie in diplomacy.

But the Kremlin's account of the phone call suggests there is some hard bargaining ahead. President Putin has introduced into the conversation the isolation of the breakaway Trans-Dniester region of Moldova. This should have nothing to do with Ukraine. But it has everything to do with Russia trying to strengthen its control in former Soviet countries.

He has also introduced the idea of international co-operation to deal with what Russia insists are "rampant extremists" threatening people and institutions. After the Trojan horse-like operation in Crimea, the government in Kiev will be very wary of any Russian involvement in Ukraine's internal affairs.

Mr Obama received Mr Putin's call in Saudi Arabia - the latest leg of a trip which also took the US president to Europe where the Ukraine crisis dominated discussions.

The Kremlin said in a statement that the Russian president drew Mr Obama's attention to "the continued rampage of extremists" in Kiev and various regions of Ukraine.

It said these individuals were "committing acts of intimidation towards peaceful residents, government authorities and law enforcement agencies... with impunity".

Mr Putin suggested examining possible steps the global community could take to help stabilise the situation, the Kremlin statement said.

He also expressed concern at an "effective blockade" of Moldova's separatist region of Trans-Dniester, where Russia has troops.

Pro-Russian politicians there have sent a request asking to join the Russian Federation.

Nato fears Russia could use its forces in Trans-Dniester to invade the breakaway region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Head of the Russian Interior Ministry's branch in the North Caucasus Kazimir Botashev at the presentation ceremony of the top military brass in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 28, 2014. President Putin welcomed military leaders to the Kremlin on Friday

Meanwhile in New York, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had been assured by President Putin that the Russian leader "had no intention to make any military move" into Ukraine.

Russia's reported troop movements near Ukraine's eastern border - described as a "huge military build-up" by Nato - has triggered fears that Mr Putin's interest in Ukraine is not limited to Crimea.

The BBC's North America Editor, Mark Mardell, said Friday night's phone call could indicate tentative progress towards a diplomatic solution - just when fears were growing in the West that Russia could be about to stage an invasion of eastern Ukraine.

The US and its allies have imposed sanctions on members of Mr Putin's inner circle, and threatened to take action to target the Russian economy, in response to Moscow's actions in Crimea.

Moscow formally annexed Crimea after the predominantly ethnic Russian region held a referendum which backed joining Russia.

Kiev and the West condemned the vote as "illegal".

The move followed months of street protests, which led to the overthrow of pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February.

Map of Crimea

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  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    "354.Tiny Toy
    if Marine le Pen won the elections in France"

    Ah yes you would be questioning if she was French,
    I believe you are a Ukrainian Nazi, like you I have no evidence and like you I am entitled to my belief.
    It says on my old style birth certificate I was born in Kent and Canterbury hospital which makes me English born and I still prefer Putins honesty over that of Hague the weasel

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    So the EU is trying to capture the Crimea, and it is doing so by accepting a number of completely unrelated countries?

    New heights of paranoia. The EU doesn't have any territorial or military interest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    355 Alex

    "It's simply not credible that so many comment's mirror the tactics and context used by Russian spokesmen"

    You seem obsessessed by the idea that people can think for themselves and see through establishment figures like Dannatt or trouble makers like Hague

    We can see that the referendum in Crimea for instance was genuine or that US interference started the Orange revolution

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    367.margaret howard
    He and friend Kerry have been travelling the globe trying to fan the flames of war

    Kerry reminds me of Colin Powell, he doesn't believe most of what he is saying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    #364 - I did not understand your reply but no matter. I'll still get my roubles if some idiots here are to be believed. By the way, if anyone is interested, Youtube is a GREAT way of getting non-state controlled news - some of it is of varying quality and you have to read between the lines, but you do get the full picture. You don't with the Beeb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    You make my point as your comment is constructive and challenging, rather than a rant against the BBC and the west.

    I don't think comments here should all be supportive of western politicians but having studied the thousands of comments made alongside BBC stories on Russian/Ukraine, there's a good whiff of fishiness about them

    From memory Occupy got a large amount of publicity and rightly so

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    247 ron

    "the idiot Hague talking about tornado's being sent to patrol the borders of Russia, just how stupid is that"

    He and friend Kerry have been travelling the globe trying to fan the flames of war

    Russia especially enraged them when Putin and Lavrov spoiled their game of trying to bomb Syria

    Two weak opportunists appointed above their station trying to justify their positions

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    354 & 355 are as bogus as Cameron's moral repugnance over aggressive tax avoidance - sixth form humour rather than paid stooge - best left to play with themselves I think....

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    Crisis, what crisis, Putin has about as much interest in Ukraine as he had in Hungary Romania Bulgaria Czech Republic Slovakia and the other barren wastelands (and populations) of the ex bloc which the EU took on to get their hands on Crimea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    The deal sent protesters to the streets as Russia pressured Yanukovych to crack down on demonstrators - Untrue.

    I agree, space prevails here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    Certainly will, as I'm lucky enough to live in a free country, free from the military and political oppression of Putin's Russia.

    I'll stick with the BBC rather than YouTube.

    But keep it all coming, as I'm happy to keep defending the BBC and the free world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    You're seriously saying that "Western media" is just a firehose of "Western propaganda"? Don't you think that's a little ironic given the URL at the top of your screen?

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    #355 It is always very surprising for elites to come into contact with the great unwashed and discover a truth which is outside their own philosophy. Why should opinion in the UK mirror the mainstream media? When Politicians in UK disagree with such groupthink they are "loonies", when protest movements like OCCUPY take on the banks they are labelled "fringe" Perhaps the media is out of touch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    Alex King @ 355

    That's because people have seen the propaganda spewed out by the some Western media: Then it's been accurately flagged up by other media:

    People want the truth, not fake stories to push an agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    352. Me

    Are you all right? I asked for evidence to support a single claim made by NF, and instead you post a link to another basin full of utter crap from the same charlatan.

    E.g. 75% of our laws etc:

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    Putin's new astroturfing campaign: "the UN is actually illegitimate because the USA secretly controls it behind the scenes".

    How much more paranoid can you get? Does he believe the moon landings were faked as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    #355. No - we just think you are unhinged. Have a nice life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    CLEGG: Three million jobs are linked to our trade with the EU. If we were outside, those jobs would be at risk.
    FARAGE: We buy much more from the EU than we sell – £150billion a year compared to £100billion – and it’s inconceivable that the other EU states would jeopardise their exports to us simply because we withdrew from their political arrangements.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    If you listen to Putin's spokesmen here in the UK and in Russia criticising the West/BBC etc., then you'll understand why I think the bulk of the comments on BBC stories about Russian and Ukraine seem dodgy.

    It's simply not credible that so many comment's mirror the tactics and context used by Russian spokesmen. The British like a good rant, but there's too much here against the BBC/West.

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    Sorry "Dave", I don't believe he's British any more than you are. Re "Putin's argument", this seems to be that if there are ethnic Russians present and a government he doesn't agree with, invasion is justified. According to this logic if Marine le Pen won the elections in France, we would be justified in invading the Dordogne.


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