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Obama calls for Russia pullout, start of direct talks

© CBS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-28

US President Barack Obama said in an interview aired Friday that Russia must "move back" its troops from Ukraine's border, move past a Cold War mentality, and start direct negotiations on Crimea with both Kiev and the international community.

Obama said in an interview with CBS News that Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to assemble forces on the Ukrainian border "under the guise of military exercises" may simply be "an effort to intimidate Ukraine" – or it may be that Russia has plans to invade.

Putin called Obama late on Friday to discuss a US proposal on resolving the crisis in Ukraine, the White House said. The proposal had been drawn up after consultations with Ukraine and the European Union, and Putin and Obama agreed that their foreign ministers would soon meet "to discuss next steps".

Although estimates of the Russian troop numbers vary greatly, Obama said that to de-escalate the situation, Russia should "move back those troops and begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government as well as the international community".

Obama said Putin's actions had revealed “a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union".

Obama went on to lament Russia's seeming inability to “move forward" from a Cold War-era mentality.

“You would have thought that, after a couple of decades, that there’d be an awareness on the part of any Russian leader that the path forward is not to revert back to the kinds of practices that, you know, were so prevalent during the Cold War, but in fact to move forward with further integration with the world economy and to be a responsible international citizen."

But Obama said he understood the Russian leader’s desire to retaliate for past Western actions.

"I think there's a strong sense of Russian nationalism and a sense that somehow the West has taken advantage of Russia in the past and that he wants to, in some fashion, you know, reverse that or make up for that," Obama said.

"What I have repeatedly said is that he may be entirely misreading the West. He's certainly misreading American foreign policy," the US leader said.

Russia has repeatedly accused the West, in particular the United States, of seeking to encircle Russia by gaining influence in regional nations such as Ukraine. NATO's eastward expansion since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been a longstanding bone of contention for the Kremlin.

"We have no interest in circling Russia and we have no interest in Ukraine beyond letting Ukrainian people make their own decisions about their own lives," Obama said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-03-28

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