WASHINGTON â€” President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone for about an hour on Friday, shortly after the Ukrainian government and opposition leaders announced a deal to head off the political crisis in Kiev.
“They exchanged views on the need to implement quickly the political agreement reached today in Kiev, the importance of stabilizing the economic situation and undertaking necessary reforms, and the need for all sides to refrain from further violence,” the White House said in a statement.
In addition to Obama and Putin’s conversation, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with the three leading Ukrainian opposition leaders, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel chatted with the Ukrainian defense minister Friday.
Obama and Putin, who have clashed over the ongoing civil war in Syria, once again found themselves at odds over the situation in the Ukraine as the crisis played out in recent days.
Friday’s agreement, which was facilitated by France, Germany and Poland and reached after all-night talks, was consistent with the Obama administration’s earlier call for de-escalating the violence, constitutional reform and early elections.
But Russia did not sign on to the deal and some protesters continue to press for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s immediate resignation.
Punctuating Yanukovych’s tenuous grip on power, Ukraine’s parliament voted on Friday to allow the release of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has been imprisoned for more than two years.
As Obama prepared to speak with Putin, White House press secretary Jay Carney highlighted the common interests the United States and Russia have in restoring stability in the Ukraine.
“The fact of the matter is, it is in Russia’s interest for the violence to end in Ukraine as it is in the interest of the United States and our European friends,” Carney told reporters Friday. “We welcome the cessation of violence, and we welcome the agreements that have been reached.”
In comments earlier this week, Obama tried to downplay U.S.-Russian competition in Ukraine as well as Syria. At the same time, he has not shied away from noting that Russia has supported the governments in Syria and Ukraine when the citizens of those countries have expressed the desire to move their country in a different direction than the leaders of those countries.
But Obama noted that he doesn’t see the differences in the Ukraine and Syria as reflective of a “Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.”
In addition to discussing Ukraine, Obama and Putin discussed the situation in Syria and the efforts by six global powers â€” including the USA and Russia â€” to reach a permanent agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
Obama also congratulated Russia for its hosting of the Winter Olympic Games, the White House said.