Russia, U.S. still far apart on Ukraine, says Putin

Photo: Russia, U.S. still far apart on Ukraine, says Putin / Other News

President Vladimir Putin said Russia and the United States still stood far apart over Ukraine, but the two countries should not sacrifice relations over a disagreement on an individual, albeit very important, international problem, Reuters reported.

In a statement issued by the Kremlin on Friday, the Russian leader told U.S. President Barack Obama in a telephone call on Thursday that Ukraine's new leaders, who had come to power in an anti-constitutional coup, had imposed "absolutely illegitimate decisions on the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions".

On Thursday, parliament in Ukraine's southern Crimea region voted to join Russia and hold a referendum on becoming part of the Russian federation on March 16, moves which pro-Western leaders in Kiev said would violate international law.

"Russia cannot ignore calls for help in this matter and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with the international law," Putin said.

"[He] stressed the paramount importance of Russian-American relations to ensure stability and security in the world. These relations should not be sacrificed for individual differences, albeit very important ones, over international problems."

In the one-hour call, Obama urged Putin to accept the terms of a potential diplomatic solution to the crisis, which has triggered the worst crisis in U.S.-Russian relations since the end of the Cold War.

Putin has stridently defended Russia's moves in Ukraine, a country he calls a "a brotherly nation", saying Moscow was not behind the seizure of Crimea, home of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

He has denied western accusations that his troops have captured state buildings there, saying the armed men were member of local self-defense units.

He says Russia is willing to cooperate with western powers but any solution to the crisis must be based on an EU-brokered agreement signed on February 21 by ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich, who Putin has said is Ukraine's legitimate president.

Putin said he agreed with Obama that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry should continue "intensive contacts" on Ukraine.

As a result of protests in Ukraine, the country's President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted on Feb. 22. The Verkhovna Rada (parliament) has approved the new composition of the parliament and is preparing to hold pre-term elections.

On Feb. 26 several thousand people participating in two rallies gathered in front of Supreme Council of Crimea. After the escalation of the protest actions in Crimea, the Federation Council supported President Vladimir Putin's appeal regarding the use of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine pending "the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country".

Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and the U.S., as well as chairman of the European Council and the chairman of the European Commission made a joint statement condemning Russia's position on Ukraine and canceled the preparations for the G8 summit in Sochi, scheduled for June 2014.

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