By Justin Sink - 04/25/14 05:03 PM EDT
The White House said Friday that it had not been informed by Russia that it had suspended top-level diplomatic talks, despite a report that the Kremlin had cut off interactions with the United States.
"The United States has not suspended interactions between U.S.-Russian leadership counterparts and has not been informed by the Russian government that it has," said National Security Council spokeswoman Laura Lucas Magnuson.
"We still continue to work with Russia on a range of global issues, whether that's the removal of chemical weapons from Syria — we're up over 90 percent [of weapons removed] — or on the P5+1 talks to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," Psaki said in an interview with CNN.
An administration official added that Secretary of State John Kerry had been in contact with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov frequently in recent days, while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey spoke with his Russian counterpart, Valery Gerasimov, on Thursday.
The Daily Beast reported Friday that the Kremlin had cut off "intensive high level communications between top U.S. and Russian officials."
"Putin will not talk to Obama under pressure," Igor Yurgens, chairman of the Institute for Contemporary Development in Moscow and a top Kremlin ally, told The Daily Beast. "It does not mean forever."
Psaki said she had seen the story and comment from Yurgens.
"But in practice we've continued to work with Russia even while we've had strong disagreements about the steps they've taken in Ukraine," Psaki said.
Earlier Friday in South Korea, President Obama accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having "an increasing tendency to view the world through a Cold War prism and to see Russia's interests as invariably in conflict with the West."
"There are still areas that we should be cooperating, on counterterrorism, for example," Obama continued. "But his decisions recently — first with respect to supporting the horrendous bloodshed carried out by the Assad regime in Syria, and then, most clearly, with respect to the situation in Ukraine — makes it much more difficult for us to cooperate. And I suspect that that's going to linger for some time to come."
Obama said the U.S. would continue to seek "areas where we can work together."
But he also indicated that he would work to increase pressure on Putin to halt provocations in Eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian militants have seized government buildings. Later Friday, Obama called top European leaders to discuss another round of targeted sanctions that would hit those in Putin's inner circle, and possibly the Russian president himself.
"President Putin is not a stupid man and I think recently acknowledged that this has already had an impact," Obama said. "And certainly if the situation gets worse and sanctions are broadened to an entire sector, that will have a more severe impact on the Russian people and the Russian economy."
Putin and Obama last spoke about the crisis in Ukraine on April 14, and that conversation sparked foreign ministers from Russia, the U.S., Ukraine and Europe to meet in Geneva last week in hopes of striking a deal that would deescalate tensions there.
Although a deal was announced, the United States has complained Russia has done little to abide by its end of the bargain.
"What you've seen is the government in Kiev doing what it said it would do," Obama said. "What we have not seen is Russia speaking out clearly and condemning the pro-Russian militias that have taken over these buildings and using its influence to deescalate the crisis."