Putin calls Obama to discuss diplomatic solution to Ukraine

Obama says the U.S. supports a diplomatic path in close consultation with Ukraine. | AP Photo
Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama Friday to talk about a “U.S. proposal for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine,” the White House says.
Obama suggested that Russia put a concrete response in writing, his spokesman said in a statement.
The two countries\’ foreign ministers would meet soon to discuss the next steps, he added.
Russia\’s annexation of Crimea has sparked international condemnation.
“President Obama noted that the Ukrainian government continues to take a restrained and de-escalatory approach to the crisis and is moving ahead with constitutional reform and democratic elections, and urged Russia to support this process and avoid further provocations, including the buildup of forces on its border with Ukraine,” the statement read.
Obama also told Putin that the United States supports a diplomatic path in close consultation with Ukraine, according to the statement.
“President Obama made clear that this 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 statement read. “President Obama reiterated that the United States has strongly opposed the actions that Russia has already taken to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Obama received Putin\’s call in Saudi Arabia – the latest leg of a trip which also took the US president to Europe where the Ukraine crisis dominated discussions.
Meanwhile in New York, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had been assured by President Putin that the Russian leader "had no intention to make any military move".
Earlier, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Hungary is against the European Union imposing a round of economic sanctions on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine.
He was quoted in an interview published this morning by the business daily Vilaggazdasag.    
The central European country of ten million people relies on Russia for about 80% of its natural gas needs.
It recently signed a €10bn deal with Russia for Rosatom, Russia\’s state nuclear corporation, to expand Hungary\’s Paks nuclear plant, a major power generator.
Russia is also Hungary\’s largest trading partner outside the European Union, with exports worth €2.55bn in 2013.
This comes as deposed Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych has called for referendums to be held across the country to determine the future status of every Ukrainian region, instead of presidential elections planned for May.
 Yanukovych said: "As president who is with you in thought and soul, I ask every single sensible citizen of Ukraine not to let yourselves be used by the imposters
"Demand a referendum on determining the status of every region in Ukraine."
The comments, which were his first in over two weeks, came after Crimea voted to become part of Russia in a referendum earlier this month and was then rapidly incorporated into Russian territory.
 Yanukovych fled Ukraine for Russia last month and is now reportedly living in a country house outside Moscow, although his two public appearances since have been in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.
Source: Agencies
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