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Ukraine

Putin calls Obama to discuss crisis in Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called his US counterpart Barack Obama to discuss the Crimea crisis. Their conversation focused on a diplomatic proposal made by Secretary of State John Kerry earlier in the week.

The two presidents agreed on Friday that Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would meet again to discuss the next steps regarding a diplomatic proposal to end the crisis in Crimea.

Kerry's proposal includes confidence-building measures such as the deployment of international monitors, the withdraw of Russian troops and direct dialogue between Kyiv and Moscow.

"President Obama suggested that Russia put a concrete response in writing," the White House said in a news release.

The US president reportedly told the Russian head of state that although Washington supports a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Crimea, Moscow must first withdraw its troops from Ukraine's borders in order to pave the way for a negotiated settlement.

"President Obama made clear that this remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," the White House said.

Putin warns of extremists

Russia has massed around 40,000 troops on Ukraine's eastern borders, according to estimates by US officials. The troop build up has raised concern among Western nations that Moscow may be planning to intervene on behalf of Russian speakers in eastern and southern Ukraine.

President Putin told Obama that extremists were on a “rampage” in Ukraine, intimidating civilians and law enforcement with impunity, according to Itar-Tass, which quoted the Kremlin's press service. The Russian president suggested that the international community should take steps to stabilize the situation in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that Putin had assured him that Moscow was not planning to invade Ukraine.

"President Putin told me that he had no intention to make any military move," Ban said after briefing the UN Security Council about his recent trip to Moscow.

slk/crh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)