By Lesley Rozycki 3-31-14
After weeks of rising tensions between Russia and the United States, President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin finally spoke to one another.
In an hour-long phone call, the two world leaders discussed a possible diplomatic solution to the current situation in Ukraine. They considered a U.S.-led plan to withdraw troops from Crimea, and protection of Russian speakers in the region.
President Obama urged his Russian counterpart to ease up on the number of troops along the Russian/Ukranian border. Mr. Putin expressed his worry over the threat of the “extremists” in Kiev.
The White House said, “President Obama underscored to President Putin that the United States continues to support a diplomatic path… with the aim of de-escalation of the crisis.”
The two leaders agreed to have their foreign ministers meet soon to discuss the next steps.
The Russian annexation of the Crimean region has sparked widespread criticism from the international community.
The predominantly ethnic Russian region held a referendum that backed joining Russia. Kiev and the West called the vote “illegal”.
The U.S. and its EU allies have imposed sanctions on individuals with close ties to Mr. Putin and threatened to take further action targeting the Russian economy.
The action follows months of protests in Ukraine, which led to the removal of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February.