President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone for 90 minutes about Russian troops in Crimea.
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.
Russia sent in troops and received permission to send more after Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov asked him for protection. Obama told Putin to pull the forces back to their bases in Crimea. If he does not, Obama threatened that America will not attend the G8 summit in Sochi.
Putin told Obama he has to protect and secure the rights of Russians living in Crimea from far-right radical groups in Kiev. Over 58% of the population are ethnic Russians.
The Russian President underlined that there are real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens and compatriots on Ukrainian territory. Vladimir Putin stressed that if violence spread further in the eastern regions of Ukraine and in Crimea, Russia reserves the right to protect its interests and those of Russian speakers living there.
The United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon also spoke to Putin and told him to talk to the new Ukraine government. After parliament ousted president Viktor Yanukovich, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Russia does not consider the new leaders to be legitimate. The pro-Russian Crimea government did not allow UN officials into the country.
Robert Serry, a senior U.N. official whom Ban dispatched to Ukraine on a fact-finding mission earlier in the week, said he was unable to comply with U.N. instructions to travel to Crimea. After getting in touch with the pro-Russian Crimean government, Serry said in a statement, he had “come to the conclusion that a visit to Crimea today is not possible.”
“In Crimea, I would have conveyed . . . a message for all to calm the situation down and to refrain from any actions that could further escalate an already-tense environment.”
There is no indication, though, that the US is considering military force against Russia. Obama did say if Putin did not pull back he could suffer economic consequences. The White House again reinforced their support of Ukraine.
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.