MOSCOW/ WASHINGTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama agreed during a phone call yesterday the current stand-off in Ukraine was not in the interest of their countries, the Kremlin said.
“The presidents agreed that the current situation is not in the interests of either country,” said a Kremlin statement.
Meanwhile, in his first comments on sanctions after the US and EU earlier this week slapped the toughest punitive measures on Russia since the Cold War, Putin characterised them as “counterproductive, causing serious damage to bilateral cooperation and international stability overall.”
However, the Kremlin said the two presidents agreed on the urgent need for an “immediate and stable halt to fighting in southeast Ukraine and the start of a political process.”
They also agreed that tripartite contact group talks bringing together Ukraine, Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which is monitoring the situation in Ukraine should continue.
Tripartite talks held on Thursday and Friday in the Belarussian capital Minsk reached agreement on freeing 20 prisoners from each side, according to Ukraine’s representative cited by Russian news agencies.
The White House said Barack Obama has also voiced deep concerns about increased support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Ties between the United States and Russia have plunged to their lowest level since the end of the Cold War over the Ukraine crisis, which Washington accuses Moscow of fanning with weapons and support. It was the first conversation between the two leaders since July 17, when a Malaysian passenger jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine by what US officials believe was a missile launched by pro-Russian separatists.
The White House said: “The president reiterated his deep concerns about Russia’s increased support for the separatists in Ukraine. The president reinforced his preference for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine.”