[Aaus-list] FW: NYTimes on Putin-Obama call to Discuss Ukraine

Marta Farion marta at farion.org
Sat Mar 29 10:05:13 EDT 2014



Putin Calls Obama to Discuss Ukraine, White House Says

dex.html> PETER BAKER,
r/index.html> MICHAEL D. SHEAR and
nhorn/index.html> DAVID M. HERSZENHORNMARCH 28, 2014




Key paragraph:

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov have been passing a "working document" back and
forth that explores ways for the Russians to pull back militarily, as well
as ideas for how the international community could support constitutional
reform in Ukraine. Among other things, it could include guaranteeing more
autonomy for certain regions, disarming the militias that have emerged and
defining Ukraine's relationship to international alliances like NATO.



WASHINGTON - President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia reached out to President
Obama on Friday to discuss ideas about how to peacefully resolve the
international standoff over Ukraine, a surprise move by Moscow to pull back
from the brink of an escalated confrontation that has put Europe and much of
the world on edge.

After weeks of provocative moves punctuated by a menacing buildup of troops
on Ukraine's border, Mr. Putin's unexpected telephone call to Mr. Obama
offered a hint of a possible settlement. The two leaders agreed to have
their top diplomats meet to discuss concrete proposals for defusing the
crisis that has generated the most serious clash between Russia and the West
since the end of the Cold War.

But it remained uncertain whether Mr. Putin was seriously interested in a
resolution that would go far enough to satisfy the United States, Ukraine
and Europe, or instead was seeking a diplomatic advantage at a time when he
has been isolated internationally. While the White House account of the call
emphasized the possible diplomatic movement, the Kremlin's version stressed
Mr. Putin's complaints about "extremists" in Ukraine and introduced into the
mix of issues on the table the fate of Transnistria, another pro-Russian
breakaway province outside his borders.

Neither American nor European officials expect Mr. Putin to easily reverse
his seizure of Crimea, the largely Russian-speaking Ukrainian peninsula
Moscow annexed last week after Russian troops took control there. Indeed,
the Kremlin statement made no mention of Crimea, suggesting Mr. Putin
considers the matter a fait accompli that is no longer up for discussion.
Analysts said the Russian leader may be seeking some sort of de facto
acceptance of that new status quo in exchange for not sending troops massed
on the border into eastern Ukraine.

Mr. Obama took the call from Mr. Putin at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh,
Saudi Arabia, after finishing a two-hour dinner with King Abdullah to
discuss Iran, Syria and other security issues. Amid intelligence reports
warning of a further Russian incursion into Ukraine, American officials were
trying to puzzle through the situation on Friday night, unsure what Mr.
Putin was up to, but deeply suspicious.

"President Obama underscored to President Putin that the United States
continues to support a diplomatic path in close consultation with the
government of Ukraine and in support of the Ukrainian people with the aim of
de-escalation of the crisis," the White House said in a statement.
"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."

In its statement posted on its official website, the Kremlin said Mr. Putin
"drew Barack Obama's attention to continued rampage of extremists who are
committing acts of intimidation towards peaceful residents, government
authorities and law enforcement agencies in various regions and in Kiev with

"In light of this," it added, "the president of Russia suggested examining
possible steps the global community can take to help stabilize the

Neither the Kremlin nor the White House said what those steps might be. The
White House said Mr. Putin was responding to an American proposal that
Secretary of State John Kerry presented to Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov
during a meeting at The Hague earlier in the week, a proposal developed in
consultation with Ukraine's interim government and European allies.


Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov have been passing a "working document" back and
forth that explores ways for the Russians to pull back militarily, as well
as ideas for how the international community could support constitutional
reform in Ukraine. Among other things, it could include guaranteeing more
autonomy for certain regions, disarming the militias that have emerged and
defining Ukraine's relationship to international alliances like NATO.

In citing extremist action, Mr. Putin sought to capitalize on a tense
internal showdown in Kiev. Members of an ultranationalist group, Right
Sector, have surrounded the Ukrainian Parliament over the last two days,
demanding the resignation of Ukraine's acting interior minister over the
shooting death of one of the group's leaders earlier this week in western

The presence of masked, armed demonstrators threatening to storm the
Parliament building offered the Russian government an opportunity to bolster
its contention that the ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a Moscow
ally, after pro-European street protests last month was an illegal coup
carried out by right-wing extremists with Western encouragement.

In fact, the nationalist groups, largely based in western Ukraine, had
formed just one segment of a broad coalition of demonstrators who occupied
the streets of Kiev for months demanding Mr. Yanukovych's ouster.

The Ukrainian Parliament voted Friday to create a special commission to
investigate the death of the Right Sector leader, Oleksandr Myzychko, who
was also known as Sashko Bely and was shot to death in the city of Rivne on
Tuesday, apparently as law enforcement authorities tried to arrest him.

Parliament decided not to vote on a proposal calling for the resignation of
the interior minister, Arsen Avakov, until the commission makes its report.
Members of Right Sector said they were not satisfied with that decision, but
would only picket the Parliament building and not try to go inside as some
had threatened. Some of the group's members carried clubs and axes.

Despite the weaponry, the atmosphere outside the building by Friday
afternoon was relaxed, with many of the demonstrators having returned to
Independence Square, the central gathering point during more than three
months of civil unrest in Kiev.

While not mentioning Crimea, the Kremlin drew attention to Ukraine's
blockade of Transnistria, a breakaway, pro-Russian region of Moldova,
another former Soviet republic to the south. Frozen for years in an
international limbo, neither accepting Moldova's rule nor formally part of
Russia, Transnistria has relied on land access through Ukraine for crucial

The Kremlin said a new blockade would "significantly complicate the living
conditions for the region's residents, impeding their movement and normal
trade and economic activities," and it urged negotiations to address the

Russia has more than 1,000 troops in Transnistria, the remnants of a
peacekeeping force deployed since 1992, and it has relied on overland access
through Ukraine to supply them. The next talks on the conflict are scheduled
for Vienna on April 10 and 11.

Some officials in the region have asked to follow Crimea and become part of
Russia. Moldova has been working toward the same sweeping political and free
trade agreements with the European Union that prompted Russian opposition in

American officials and analysts saw Mr. Putin's reference to Transnistria as
an ominous sign and possible prelude for Russian intervention, just as
Moscow cited unsubstantiated threats to Russian speakers in Crimea when it
ordered troops to seize the peninsula.

Mr. Putin's willingness to negotiate suggested some confidence that he will
be dealing with the West from a position of strength, having consolidated
his grip on Crimea and largely dispersed the remaining Ukrainian military
units that had been holed up awaiting instructions from Kiev. The Ukrainian
government this week formally ordered a withdrawal.

But American officials hoped that the move reflected a growing realization
that much of the world was against Mr. Putin. Although sanctions imposed by
the United States and Europe so far have been limited largely to individual
Russians and a Russian bank, Moscow has found little if any support for its
actions, even among allies like China. Other members of the Group of 8
advanced states responded by suspending Russia as a member.

Peter Baker reported from Washington; Michael D. Shear from Riyadh, Saudi
Arabia; and David M. Herszenhorn from Moscow. Patrick Reevell contributed
reporting from Kiev, Ukraine, and Michael R. Gordon from Riyadh.




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