- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama Friday agreed in a phone call Friday that their envoys will meet to discuss a U.S. proposal for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, the White House said.

In a call initiated by Mr. Putin, Mr. Obama suggested that Russia “put a concrete response in writing” to the U.S. proposal, which includes Moscow engaging in a direct dialogue with the government in Kiev and a pullback of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border. The U.S. also wants to ensure fair and free elections in Ukraine on May 25.

The two presidents agreed that Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet to discuss the next steps. The envoys held a brief discussion on the proposal on Monday at The Hague.

The White House said Mr. Obama urged Russia to “avoid further provocations, including the buildup of forces on its border with Ukraine.”

“President Obama noted that the Ukrainian government continues to take a restrained and de-escalatory approach to the crisis and is moving ahead with constitutional reform and democratic elections,” and he asked Mr. Putin to support the process, the statement said.

Mr. Obama emphasized that a diplomatic solution is possible only if Russia pulls back its troops from the border and “does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

SEE ALSO: POWDER KEG: Russia puts 80,000 troops outside Ukraine

Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine two weeks ago, a move that the U.S. and its allies have refused to recognize. Mr. Obama and European leaders have imposed economic sanctions on top Russian officials, such as freezing their foreign assets.

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