The White House has announced that on Monday night, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had what The Guardian describes as a “tense phone call” regarding the ongoing unrest in Ukraine.
Pro-Russian activists have been seizing towns in eastern Ukraine, despite the country’s acting president promising an antiterrorism operation. That effort never materialized. The country also requested a UN peacekeeper presence, thought Russia’s veto power on the Security Council makes that unlikely to happen.
In a statement, The White House said that Obama asked Putin to quell the efforts of Pro-Russian extremists. The State Department believes that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Russia is directly involved in efforts to destabilize Ukraine.
The president emphasized that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized.
Putin framed the situation in a different light:
The Russian side stressed that the protests in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkov, Slavyansk and other cities in southeastern Ukraine are the result of the Kiev authorities’ unwillingness and inability to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population.
There was little that either side conceded, but both sides agreed to go ahead with Thursday’s talks with the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and Europe in Geneva.