- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2014

At Moscow’s request, President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday about the new round of U.S. sanctions against Russian businesses as punishment for the crisis in Ukraine.

The two leaders also spoke briefly about the initial reports of a Malaysian passenger jet being downed by a missile in Ukraine.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the phone call was “an opportunity for the president to make clear once again the important principle that’s at stake” of countries respecting each other’s borders.

“The president has made clear that the international community, the United States and our European allies are willing to take steps and impose economic costs on Russia if they decline to respect those basic norms,” Mr. Earnest said.

Mr. Obama on Thursday announced the fresh sanctions, saying that Mr. Putin’s government had failed to stop “continued provocations” by Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Mr. Earnest said Russia has an opportunity “to play a constructive role in deescalating this conflict.”

“They could shut down the border and prevent the transfer of heavy weapons and materiel to separatists. They have not done that,” he said. “President Putin himself could intervene with pro-Russian separatists and encourage them to abide by the ceasefire. He has not done that.

Mr. Earnest said that Mr. Putin brought up the reports of the downed airliner near the end of their phone call. It wasn’t clear if the two leaders discussed the crash at length.

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