The Daily Beast is reporting exclusively that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an end to communication with President Obama and high-level officials in the White House. The move follows a report that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel could not get through to his Russian counterpart Friday.
According to sources speaking to the website, it appears that President Putin feels pressured to involve the United States in the evolving situation in Ukraine. This has put him off to the point of discontinuing any communication with President Obama. “Putin will not talk to Obama under pressure,” Igor Yurgens, chairman of the Institute for Contemporary Development, told the Daily Beast. While he added that “it does not mean forever,” the situation is indefinite for now.
The pressure may have come from indications within the White House that the United States is preparing further sanctions on Russia for supporting armed militias that are attempting to overtake Ukrainian governments in the eastern provinces and replace them with Moscow-friendly, Russian-speaking leaders. Speaking from Tokyo, President Obama made clear that the United States would not only impose sanctions until Russia stopped backing these militias, but would encourage allies like Japan to do the same.
Also this week, Secretary of State John Kerry attacked Russia’s main news outlet, Russia Today, for being an “absurd” “propaganda bullhorn,” to which the Russian government apparently objected. Russian outlets have been publishing outlandish attacks on the Ukrainian opposition, including claims of anti-semitism and unrepeatable accusations against Ukrainian women.
As the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin reports, the rift between Moscow and Washington leaves only one open line of communication between the two governments: Secretary of State John Kerry is still on speaking terms with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister. Putin may put an end to this, however, if more sanctions come from Washington or the European Union. Lavrov himself has been escalating the tone of his public comments, warning the international community that Russia would “certainly” resort to military force if their nation were attacked.
In addition to recent comments from Secretary of State Kerry, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has spoken out against Russia’s aggression. Psaki told the press that the United States was peeved that the Russian government “has not been following their hashtag with action,” subsequent to a tweet with the hashtag “#UnitedforUkraine.”
Reports indicate that Russia-supporting militias took down a helicopter in Ukraine last night, following recent comments from the U.S. State Department.