Obama tells Putin to pull back troops


President Obama called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back his troops from Ukraine’s border on Friday during a phone call between the two leaders.

Obama noted that the Ukrainian government has pursued “a restrained and de-escalatory approach” in the crisis, the White House said.

He urged Russia to support Ukraine’s democratic process and to "avoid further provocations, including the buildup of forces on its border with Ukraine.”

The phone call, which was initiated by Putin, comes a day after Agence France-Presse reported nearly 100,000 Russian troops had lined up along their border with Ukraine, according to a Ukrainian official. 

“President Putin called President Obama today to discuss the U.S. proposal for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, which Secretary Kerry had again presented to Foreign Minister Lavrov at the meeting at the Hague earlier this week, and which we developed following U.S. consultations with our Ukrainian and European partners,” the White House said in a statement.

The presidents both agreed that Secretary of State John Kerry would meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss the next steps.

Obama made it clear to Putin, the White House said, that de-escalation in the crisis can only happen if Russia pulls its troops back and doesn’t take steps “to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

During the phone call, Obama also reiterated the United States “strongly opposes” Russia’s actions, which he said violated Ukraine’s sovereignty. 

Obama also expressed this message to Russia in an interview that first aired on “CBS This Morning” on Friday.

Russia’s troop buildup, Obama said in the interview, “may simply be an effort to intimidate Ukraine or it may be that they've got additional plans.” 

A separate readout of Friday's phone call released by the Kremlin did not mention Obama’s request to pull back Russian forces.

The Kremlin said Putin told Obama that a blockade on Transnistria “significantly complicate[s] the living conditions for the region’s residents.”

Transnistria is a breakaway region of the former Soviet state of Moldova.

Putin “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 Kremlin said.

NATO’s commander recently voiced concern over Russia’s intentions in resolving the conflict over Transnistria, and suspects Putin has had his eye on taking control of it.

Putin also informed Obama about the “continued rampage of extremists” and their acts of intimidation toward people, government agencies and law enforcement in Kiev.

“In light of this, the President of Russia suggested examining possible steps the global community can take to help stabilise the situation,” the Kremlin said.

— This story was updated at 5:57 p.m.