With the Russian parliament unanimously approving Vladimir Putin's request to send troops into mainland Ukraine, the American government made another overture this afternoon urging Russia to reconsider its strategy.
Both governments acknowledged that Putin and Barack Obama spent 90 minutes on the phone late on Saturday discussing Russia's impending invasion of mainland Ukraine. This comes on the heels of Russia revealing that it had indeed taken over key areas of the Ukranian peninsula of Crimea.
In a statement released after today's phone call, the White House said that Obama — who says he believes that "the people of Ukraine have the right to determine their own future — stressed to Putin that "Russia's continued violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia's standing in the international community" and would lead to "greater political and economic isolation." This is a reiteration of Obama's previous position that "there will be costs" for Russia if it does decide to invade Ukraine.
In its post-discussion statement, Russia said that Putin "drew [Obama's] attention to the provocative and criminal actions on the part of ultranationalists who are in fact being supported by the current authorities in Kiev." Putin also noted his concern for Russian citizens in the Ukraine whose "lives and health" Russia believes may be in danger as Ukraine's brand new government attempts to stabilize the country.
President Obama spoke for 90 minutes this afternoon with President Putin of Russia about the situation in Ukraine. President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law, including Russia's obligations under the UN Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and which is inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act. The United States condemns Russia's military intervention into Ukrainian territory.
The United States calls on Russia to de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine. We have consistently said that we recognize Russia's deep historic and cultural ties to Ukraine and the need to protect the rights of ethnic Russian and minority populations within Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has made clear its commitment to protect the rights of all Ukrainians and to abide by Ukraine's international commitments, and we will continue to urge them to do so.
President Obama told President Putin that, if Russia has concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russian and minority populations in Ukraine, the appropriate way to address them is peacefully through direct engagement with the government of Ukraine and through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As a member of both organizations, Russia would be able to participate. President Obama urged an immediate effort to initiate a dialogue between Russia and the Ukrainian government, with international facilitation, as appropriate. The United States is prepared to participate.
President Obama made clear that Russia's continued violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia's standing in the international community. In the coming hours and days, the United States will urgently consult with allies and partners in the UN Security Council, the North Atlantic Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum. The United States will suspend upcoming participation in preparatory meetings for the G-8. Going forward, Russia's continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.
The people of Ukraine have the right to determine their own future. President Obama has directed his Administration to continue working urgently with international partners to provide support for the Ukrainian government, including urgent technical and financial assistance. Going forward, we will continue consulting closely with allies and partners, the Ukrainian government and the International Monetary Fund, to provide the new government with significant assistance to secure financial stability, to support needed reforms, to allow Ukraine to conduct successful elections, and to support Ukraine as it pursues a democratic future.
Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the United States Barack Obama on the American side's initiative.
The two presidents discussed in detail various aspects of the extraordinary situation in Ukraine.
In reply to Mr Obama's concern over the possibility of the use of Russian armed forces on the territory of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin drew his attention to the provocative and criminal actions on the part of ultranationalists who are in fact being supported by the current authorities in Kiev.
The Russian President spoke of a real threat to the lives and health of Russian citizens and the many compatriots who are currently on Ukrainian territory. Vladimir Putin stressed that in case of any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas.
[image of Obama and Putin at G8 in 2013 via AP]