White House: Obama Urges Putin to Pull Back Troops from Ukraine in Phone Call

White House: Obama Urges Putin to Pull Back Troops from Ukraine in Phone Call

The White House announced Friday evening that Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama to discuss a “diplomatic” solution for the crisis in Ukraine. President Obama reportedly told the Russian leader that peace is only possible if Russia pulls back troops from the Ukrainian border.

According to a statement from the White House, President Putin called to discuss a proposal Secretary of State John Kerry had delivered to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier in the week. The statement did not specify what President Putin’s comments in the phone call were or the details of the proposal he sought to discuss, but delivered highlights on what President Obama told Putin Russia should do to resolve the situation peacefully.

The President “urged Russia to support this process and avoid further provocations, including the buildup of forces on its border with Ukraine,” the report says, later adding that he “made clear that [peaceful resolution] remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.” The call guaranteed a future meeting between Kerry and Lavrov to discuss further negotiations.

President Obama is currently in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with the Secretary of State, on official business with the Mideast nation. The remarks in the White House’s report echo the sentiments that the President has expressed in public. Speaking to CBS News’s Scott Pelley, the President emphasized that “what we need right now to resolve and de-escalate the situation would be for Russia to move back those troops and to begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government, as well as the international community.” 

Shortly after making official the annexation of the formerly Ukrainian province of Crimea, President Putin began visibly amassing Russian troops on the border of the two nations. Russia announced the organization of these troops in at least three different regions earlier this month, earning stern warnings from European leaders to not escalate the situation. This week, NATO warned the Russian government not to exceed allowable numbers of military personnel on its border or threaten Ukraine in a way that would destabilize the region further. The military activity has led many in the United States intelligence community to warn that Russia may be planning a full invasion of Ukraine and potentially entry into other countries with Russian ethnic minority populations like Estonia and Moldova.

Earlier Friday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon assured the world in a statement that he believed President Putin had “no intention” to use his nation’s military might to seize more territory from his smaller neighbors. Noting that he had “urged the leaders of the Ukrainian authorities to address all the domestic concerns which they may have which may also create concerns to the Russian side,” Ban announced that Putin “assured me he would have no such intention” of escalating military conflict.