News

Obama warns Russia in tense call with Putin

Obama warns Russia in tense call with Putin

PHONE CALL:U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks during an Easter prayer breakfast in the East Room of the White House in Washington April 14. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

By Jeff Mason and Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a tense phone call on Monday that Moscow would face further costs for its actions in Ukraine and should use its influence to get separatists in the country to stand down.

Armed pro-Russian separatists seized more buildings in eastern Ukraine earlier in the day, expanding their control after the government failed to follow through on a threatened military crackdown.

In a call that the White House said Moscow requested, Obama told Putin that those forces were threatening to undermine and destabilize the government in Kiev.

“The president emphasized that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized,” the White House said in a statement.

Obama said Russian troops needed to withdraw from Ukraine’s border to defuse tensions and made a point of praising Kiev for its “remarkable restraint” and efforts to unify the country with elections, constitutional reform and proposals to decentralize power to local governments.

“The president noted Russia’s growing political and economic isolation as a result of its actions in Ukraine and made clear that the costs Russia already has incurred will increase if those actions persist,” the White House said.

“(He) said that while he continues to believe that a diplomatic solution is still possible, it cannot succeed in an environment of Russian military intimidation on Ukraine’s borders, armed provocation within Ukraine, and escalatory rhetoric by Kremlin officials.”

The Kremlin said Putin told Obama during the call that Russia was not interfering in Ukraine and urged Washington to use its influence to prevent bloodshed.

Earlier, U.S. officials stopped short of announcing a new set of sanctions against Russia but said they were in consultations with European partners about the prospect.

The European Union agreed on Monday to step up sanctions against Moscow by expanding a list of people subjected to asset freezes and visa bans.

A senior administration official described the call between Obama and Putin as “frank and direct,” a diplomatic construction that usually means tense.

MORE COSTS

The next round of U.S. sanctions, which would be the fourth imposed since the Ukraine crisis began, is likely to target Russians close to Putin as well as Russian entities, three sources familiar with the discussions said on Sunday.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that the United States was prepared to impose sanctions on individuals and entities in the financial services, energy, metals, mining, engineering and defense sectors.

The sanctions have been the most visible sign of U.S. anger at Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in southern Ukraine last month, reflecting the deepest plunge in U.S.-Russian relations since the Cold War.

U.S. officials declined to identify a timeline on Monday for further sanctions.

“I can assure you that Russia’s provocations – further transgressions and provocations will come with a cost. And I’m not here to specify what cost will come from which specific action, but there have already been costs imposed on Russia; there will be further costs imposed on Russia,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Obama spoke to French President Francois Hollande about the crisis on Monday and, as he did later with Putin, praised Ukraine’s government for showing restraint, a sign Washington hopes Kiev will hold that course.

Carney also confirmed that the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, had been in Kiev over the weekend and decried what he called “false claims” leveled at the CIA by Russian authorities.

“U.S. and Russian intelligence officials have met over the years. To imply that U.S. officials meeting with their counterparts (in Kiev) is anything other than in the same spirit is absurd,” he said.

According to media reports, Russia had urged Washington to explain what Brennan was doing in Ukraine.

(Additional reporting by Jim Loney; Editing by Ken Wills)

Recent Headlines

in Local

Springfield Opens New Park

3-26-15 Playground

Children wasted no time Thursday morning running to play in the new "Bounties of Nature" playground at Center Park in Springfield, once it officially opened.

in Local

Legislature Passes Budget Fix, Governor Says He’ll Sign

money pile

The Illinois Legislature has approved a plan ending weeks of negotiations over plugging a $1.6 billion hole in this year's state budget.

in Local

Schock Leaves Congress with “Humility, Sadness”

schock

Congressman Aaron Schock says he is leaving Congress with sadness and humility.

in Local

National Guard Talks More About Guardsman Accused of Terrorism

Updated
3-26-15 National Guard

An Illinois National Guard soldier is one of two people arrested for allegedly providing support to ISIS.

in Local

Former U.S. Rep. Jackson Leaves Prison

Updated
FILE - In this March 9, 2012 file photo, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. , D-Ill., and his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, ask each other for their support and votes as they arrive at a polling station for early voting in Chicago. The sweep of Jesse Jackson Jr.'s life, from golden boy who could be president to broken politician, will be laid out for a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, as she sentences him and his wife for misusing $750,000 in campaign money on a gold-plated Rolex watch, mink capes, mounted elk heads and other personal items.

Jackson will serve the remainder of his sentence at a Washington, D.C., halfway house.