President Obama has called on Vladimir Putin to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine by pulling his forces back to bases in the country's Crimean region and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine. The White House says Obama delivered that message to Putin during a 90-minute telephone conversation. But Obama's request was unlikely to be granted. The Kremlin said Putin emphasized to Obama that real threats exist to the life and health of Russian citizens living in Ukraine and that Russia has the right to protect its interests there.
"President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity," the White House said in a statement, calling Russia's actions a breach of international law, including Russia's obligations under the UN Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine. "The United States condemns Russia's military intervention into Ukrainian territory." The Kremlin, meanwhile, says Putin "emphasized that, in the case of a further spread in violence in eastern regions (of Ukraine) and Crimea, Russia maintains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population that lives there."