Obama, Putin discussed downed plane

 

President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed reports that a Malaysian Airlines plane was downed near the Russia-Ukraine border, the White House and Kremlin said on Thursday.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said the conversation occurred near the end of the call, requested by Moscow. 

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The Kremlin said Putin "informed the U.S. president of the report from air traffic controllers that the Malaysian plane had crashed on Ukrainian territory, which had arrived immediately before the phone call" in a statement posted to its website.

The conversation between the world leaders came on the heels of a new round of economic sanctions announced by Obama on Wednesday, intended to punish Russia for its support of separatists in the Eastern region of Ukraine where the jet appears to have crashed. 

The sanctions target two of Russia's biggest financial institutions, eight Russian arms firms and a shipping company that operates in the region. Four additional Russian government officials were also subject to the additional penalties.

Earnest described the discussion between Obama and Putin as "an opportunity for the president to make clear once again the important principles at stake here."

"The United States is committed to ensuring that this international norm of countries respecting the territorial integrity of other countries is prioritized," Earnest said. "The president's made clear that the international community, the United States and our European allies are willing to take steps and impose economic costs on Russia if they decline to respect those basic norms."

The White House spokesman described the conversation as "a candid exchange of views."

The Kremlin said Putin and Obama discussed the crisis in Ukraine "in detail" and that the Russian leader called for an end of hostilities from both the Ukrainian military and the pro-Russian separatists.

Putin also "expressed serious disappointment" with the U.S. decision to impose sanctions against Russian companies, saying they damaged bilateral relations "as well as efforts to find a compromise to resolve the Ukrainian crisis."

Separately, the White House said Obama had been briefed on reports of the plane crash and directed his team to be in close contact with senior Ukrainian officials on the matter.

"The president has asked to be updated over the course of the day," Earnest said.