Diplomacy will resolve Ukraine crisis: Obama to Putin
Hours after the authorising sanctions and visa curbs against Russians on Thursday, US President Barack Obama told President Vladimir Putin the ongoing crisis in Ukraine can be resolved diplomatically.
During the hour-long phone call, Obama told Putin once again that Russia's actions are in violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, which led to US sanctions.
The US president said "there is a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community," according to a White House statement.
The US and its allies are working on a four-step solution to solve the Ukraine crisis: direct Russia-Ukraine talks, international monitors to guarantee rights of Ukrainians and ethnic Russians in Ukraine, Russian forces return to their bases and the international community pledge support to Ukraine as it prepares for its next elections.
Unlike the last time the two leaders spoke, Putin's office did not issue a readout of the conversation. So, it was not known what the Russian president told Obama.
Earlier in the day on Thursday, the US announced visa restriction against Russian and Ukrainian individuals (including officials) and entities that violate Ukraine's sovereignty.
It also announced broad powers to impose targeted sanctions against individuals and entities in Russia and Ukraine (those sympathetic to Moscow).
The US, in conjunction, with its G-7 allies, has already suspended meetings running up to the Sochi G-8, and called off bilateral civilian and military engagements with Russia.
While activating these punitive measures — costs, as Obama described them — the US and its allies have kept doors open for negotiations and talks continue, spearheaded by John Kerry.
Taking the podium at the White House briefing room in the afternoon, Obama criticised the Crimean parliament's vote on referendum to secede from Ukraine.
"Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine," he said.
As he takes on Putin, who is deeply distrusted in the US, Obama found rare support from Republicans with an endorsement of his stand by speaker John Boehner.
"I support the limited sanctions outlined by the president today to freeze some assets and block US visas," said Boehner, who at times has criticised Obama on Ukraine.
"This is a welcome first step, and we remain committed to working with the administration to give President Obama as many tools as needed to keep President Putin in check and prevent Russia from infringing on the sovereignty of any of its neighbors."
Republicans have been harsh on Obama otherwise, calling his foreign policy "feckless" and slamming him as "weak".