President Obama and Russia President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone for 60 minutes Thursday about the crisis in Crimea.
“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,” said the White House.
Obama told Putin Ukraine and Russia must hold direct talks and aided by the West. This way everyone can be assured that everyone’s rights are respected and met. At the same time, he pushed Putin to pull back Russian forces and return to their bases in Crimea.
After Ukraine deposed president Viktor Yanukovych on February 22nd, Crimea immediately declared allegiance to Russia. Over 58% of Crimeans are ethnic Russians and the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based in the peninsula. On Thursday, the Crimea parliament formally asked to join Russia. If Putin accepts the proposal there will be a referendum on March 16th. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said the move is unconstitutional, and Obama agreed with him.
The US implemented visa restrictions on Russians and Crimeans who are a threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty.
This morning I signed an executive order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people.
According to my guidance, the State Department has also put in place restrictions on the travel of certain individuals and officials. These decisions continue our efforts to impose a cost on Russia and those responsible for the situation in Crimea. And they also give us the flexibility to adjust our response going forward based on Russia’s actions.
The names of the people were not released. Economic sanctions are still being discussed. On March 3rd, the US stopped all trade talks and military engagements with Russia.