Updated March 7, 11:00 a.m. ET | The Kremlin said that Putin, for his part in the phone conversation with Mr. Obama, reiterated that Russia could not ignore the current Ukraine government’s “illegitimate decisions” in Crimea, and that US-Russia relations shouldn’t wane in the ongoing dialogue over Ukraine.
“The President of Russia stressed the paramount importance of Russian-US relations for ensuring stability and security in the world,” the Kremlin said in a statement released Friday. “These relations should not be sacrificed due to disagreements on individual international issues, even if they are very significant.”
Both Mr. Obama and Putin agreed to continue negotiations, the statement said.
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Updated 6:45 p.m. ET | The White House released a readout late Thursday of President Obama’s hour-long phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the crisis in Ukraine. The full release is below:
President Obama spoke for an hour this afternoon with President Putin of Russia. President Obama emphasized that Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has led us to take several steps in response, in coordination with our European partners. President Obama indicated that there is a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community. As a part of that resolution, the governments of Ukraine and Russia would hold direct talks, facilitated by the international community; international monitors could ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians; Russian forces would return to their bases; and the international community would work together to support the Ukrainian people as they prepare for elections in May. President Obama indicated that Secretary Kerry would continue discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov, the government of Ukraine, and other international partners in the days to come to advance those objectives.
Original post follows:
President Barack Obama made remarks Thursday, saying that the proposed referendum that would allow Crimea region, where most residents are ethnically Russian, to formally separate from Ukraine and join Russia would “violate the Ukrainian constitution and international law.”
The Crimean parliament unanimously approved a March 16 referendum vote that would also give voters the option to remain a part of Ukraine.
Obama joined other international voices — including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Union Council President Herman Van Rompuy — in deeming the Crimean referendum a violation of the Ukrainian constitution.
Referring to the “international unity on display at this moment,” Mr. Obama said that if Russia doesn’t reverse course, “the resolve of the United States and its allies will remain firm.”
“In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders,” he said.