U.S. President Barack Obama voiced deep concerns in a telephone conversation with Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Friday about increased support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, the White House said.
Days after Washington introduced the most robust sanctions yet against Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis, Putin told Obama that the measures were “counterproductive”.
“The Russian leader described Washington’s course of ramping up sanctions pressure as counterproductive, causing serious damage to bilateral relations and international stability in general,” the Kremlin statement said.
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 U.S. officials believe was a missile launched by pro-Russian separatists.
The White House said in a statement: “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.”
The Kremlin statement said “significant differences” remained between the two leaders but that both emphasised the importance of an “immediate and sustained ceasefire” in east Ukraine.
The two leaders agreed to keep open their channels of communication, the White House said.
Obama also raised his concerns about what Washington says was a violation by Russia of the 1988 Intermediate-Nuclear Treaty designed to eliminate ground-launched cruise missiles.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove in Moscow and Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)
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