Obama urges Putin to 'pull forces back'

Obama to Putin: Refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine.

Obama to Putin: Refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine.

UNITED NATIONS – US President Barack Obama urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to pull forces back to bases in Crimea.

In an effort to diffuse tensions with Moscow, Obama asked Russia to “withdraw its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine,” a White House statement said.

“President Obama told President Putin that, if Russia has concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russian and minority populations in Ukraine, the appropriate way to address them is peacefully through direct engagement with the government of Ukraine and through the dispatch of international observers under the United Nations Security Council, or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).”

Obama also expressed his readiness to initiate dialogue between Russia and the Ukrainian government, with international facilitation and US participation.

He also warned of a possible greater political and economic isolation to Russia, saying that the US will suspend upcoming participation in preparatory meetings for the G-8.

President Obama has also directed his administration to continue working urgently with international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, to provide support for the Ukrainian government, “including urgent technical and financial assistance”.

Financial stability is crucial for the reforms in Ukraine and pursuing a democratic future, Obama said.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council (UNSC) met for the second time in less than 24 hours to address the rapid deterioration in Ukraine on Saturday.

Saturday’s meetings, one private and one public session, took place on request of the United Kingdom, immediately after Russia’s parliament authorized the use of its military force in Ukraine.

Ukrainian ambassador to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev was allowed to speak under Rule 37 of the UN Charter – which allows concerned parties to participate in the Council’s discussion. Sergeyev called on the Council "to do everything possible to stop aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.”

“There is still a chance,” Sergeyev told UNSC, asking all “guarantor states to react immediately to prevent (Russian) intervention.”

The Ukrainian ambassador urged UN member states to “demonstrate solidarity with the Ukrainian nation to protect sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.”

In an effort to diffuse tensions in Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on Saturday night calling for Russia to withdraw its forces, refrain from interference in Ukraine, and support international mediation.

“Unless immediate and concrete steps are taken by Russia, the effect on US-Russian relations and on Russia’s international standing will be profound,” Kerry said.

The U.S strongly condemned the Russian invasion and “occupation of Ukrainian territory,” stating that it is in full contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

The US said that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is a threat to the peace and security in the wider region.??

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