Obama-Putin phone call as tensions over Ukraine continue to strain relationship

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The US continues to express concerns over Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine. During a phone call between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Obama suggested international monitors ensure the safety of ethnic Russians in Crimea and that Russia not take any further steps to invade Ukraine.

The US is taking a tough stance, with State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf saying: “We’ve already hurt his (Putin’s) economy, greatly by the action he’s already taken.

“There will be further consequences that will hurt Russia even more, and further isolate them, whether it’s diplomatically, economically, or militarily from the rest of the world if they do. A number of steps are on the table right now,” Harf added.

Putin has agreed that Russian and US officials will meet to discuss a diplomatic solution.

However, both Kyiv and Washington say there are a large number of Russian troops near Ukraine’s eastern border. Moscow says the troops are carrying out exercises.

Overall, the situation is being portrayed as a boost for Russia’s military, with Putin saying: “The recent events in Crimea were a serious examination and they demonstrated the quality of the new abilities of our military personnel, as well as the high moral spirit of the staff.”

The US and EU refuse to recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but worries are focused on what Russia’s next move might be.

Moscow has said it will hand over to Kyiv its military equipment still in Crimea. These items include trucks and a submarine.

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