U.S. President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin today that he has “deep concerns” about Russia’s continued support of separatists in Ukraine, as the U.S. pledged $8 million in aid to the government in Kiev.
Obama told Putin he wants a diplomatic resolution and the two leaders said they would keep the lines of communication open, according to a White House account of the phone call.
The pair spoke in a call initiated by Obama three days after the U.S. and European Union announced expanded sanctions as the allies try to pressure Putin by targeting Russia’s economy. The last time the White House reported a call between Obama and Putin was on July 17, during which Obama got news of the Malaysia Airlines plane that was shot down over Ukraine.
“We can’t control how Mr. Putin thinks,” Obama told reporters today at the White House. “But what we can do is say to Mr. Putin, ‘If you continue on the path of arming separatists with heavy armaments that evidence suggests may have resulted in 300 innocent people on a jet dying and that violates international and undermines the integrity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine then you’re going to face consequences that will hurt your country.’”
The Kremlin said in a statement on today’s conversation that Putin told Obama sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. are causing “serious damage” to the two countries’ relationship.
The day after the latest U.S. and EU sanctions were levied, the Russian Central Bank pledged to ensure that the targeted businesses have adequate capital.
Putin told Obama today that the sanctions, most recently targeting energy, banking and shipping companies, have hurt bilateral cooperation and international stability, according to the statement on the Kremlin’s website.
The U.S. says Putin hasn’t moved to rein in pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and instead has continued to arm them and build up its own forces near the border.
Despite the standoff, Obama today cited his approach with Russia as an example of success in dealing with international crises, saying that gaining cooperation from the EU for stronger sanctions is a sign of progress.
“It hasn’t the resolved the problem yet,” Obama said. “I spoke to Mr. Putin this morning and I indicated to him just as we will do what we say we do in terms of sanctions, we’ll also do what we say we do in terms of wanting to resolve this issue diplomatically if he takes a different position.”
The U.S. promised to provide $8 million to Ukraine for its State Border Guard Service. The aid was announced in a separate statement about a call between Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
The assistance will pay for engineering equipment to improve border infrastructure, vehicles, patrol boats and surveillance equipment, the White House said in a statement.
During the call, Obama also brought up what the U.S. says are Russian violations of a Cold War-era arms-control treaty barring it from making, possessing or testing a ground-launched cruise missile, according to the White House.