TIME europe

Obama to Putin: Tell Troops to Back Off

In a phone call between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, the U.S. President expressed "grave concern" about Russian presence in Ukraine

Updated: April 14, 2014, 10:21 p.m. E.T.

In the second phone conversation between Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin in recent weeks, the two leaders expressed very different views on the increasingly tense situation in Ukraine, depending on whom you ask.

According to the White House, Obama said he believed a diplomatic solution could be reached, though not if Russia continues flexing its military might at Ukraine’s border and within that country. He added that the economic “costs” for Russia would increase if these aggressive actions persist. According to Reuters, the E.U. has also widened sanctions against Russia.

Obama expressed “grave concern” about Russia’s presence in Ukraine and the country’s support for the actions of pro-Russian protesters in the country, the White House said. “All irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms,” Obama said, urging President Putin to persuade pro-Russian groups to depart the buildings they have seized.

However, according to a release put out earlier by the Kremlin, Putin told Obama that reports of Russia interfering in Southern Ukraine were “based on inaccurate information” and maintained that ongoing protests are a result of “the Kiev authorities’ unwillingness to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population.”

Earlier on Monday, Kiev leaders called on the U.N. to deploy peacekeepers, as pro-Russia protesters took control of more buildings. Obama has praised the Ukrainian government’s handling of the situation and its upcoming election scheduled for May 25, according to the White House.

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