WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday for over an hour concerning Russia's incursion into Ukraine's Crimea region.
According to the White House, Obama reiterated that "Russia's actions are in violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity." Those actions, he told Putin, "led us to take several steps in response, in coordination with our European partners."
On Thursday, Obama signed an Executive Order that sanctions individuals and entities who are "undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine."
That same day, the State Department, heeding Obama's directive, implemented visa restrictions on individuals and entities "responsible for or complicit in threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."
Obama urged Putin to seize the off-ramp option by resolving the crisis diplomatically in a way that "addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community."
A diplomatic resolution, Obama outlined, would involve direct talks between Ukraine and Russia that could be facilitated by the international community, the placement of international monitors in Crimea to ensure the rights of both Ukrainians and ethnic Russians, the return of Russian forces to their bases, and international support for Ukraine's May 24 elections.
Obama concluded the phone call by telling Putin that Secretary of State John Kerry would continue to directly communicate with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the Ukrainian government, and international partners "to advance these objectives."