Putin and Obama speak by phone about unrest in eastern Ukraine

According to the Kremlin, Putin refuted Obama's allegations that Russia was involved in the unrest and countered that the blame lay with Kiev. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has taken steps to quell the unrest by offering to empower local regions and hold a national referendum on the country's state system.

By JC Finley
Russian President Vladimir Putin, pictured in 2012. (UPI/Abed Hashlamoni/Pool) | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/fc436c9b015bb19499f5f02045f19da2/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Russian President Vladimir Putin, pictured in 2012. (UPI/Abed Hashlamoni/Pool) | License Photo

MOSCOW, April 14 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone Monday with U.S. President Barack Obama regarding the situation in Ukraine.

According to the Kremlin's account of the conversation, Putin countered Obama's "expressed concern about Russia's alleged interference in southeastern Ukraine" by telling the American president that "such speculations are based on inaccurate information."


On Sunday, the U.S. Department of State laid out a detailed account that it says proves Russian involvement in the destabilization of eastern Ukraine. The pro-Russian militant take-over of six eastern Ukrainian cities simultaneously on Saturday, the State Department argued, is "Inconsistent with political, grassroots protests" and is instead evidence that Russia "is now using the same tactics that it used in Crimea..."

Putin blamed the unrest in eastern Ukraine on the government in Kiev's failure "to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population." Kiev, Putin told Obama, must involve "all the main political forces and regions in a transparent process for developing a new constitution that guarantees the main rights and freedoms for citizens, the nation's federal structure and its non-aligned status."


The Ukrainian prime minister last week announced his intention "to balance the powers of the center and the regions" through constitutional reform.

On Monday, Ukrainian acting President and Verkhovna Rada Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov indicated in a statement to parliament on Monday that he would consider holding a national referendum on Ukraine's state system, expressing confidence that the majority of Ukrainians "will vote for an indivisible, independent, democratic and unitary Ukraine."

At the conclusion of Putin's phone call with Obama, the two leaders agreed to continue to dialogue in the lead-up to the April 17 four-party meeting with Ukraine and the European Union in Geneva.

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A read out of the phone call from the White House was not yet available.


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