Obama calls on Russia to withdraw forces from Ukraine

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama on Saturday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine by pulling his forces back to bases in the country's Crimean region and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine.

The White House says Obama delivered that message to Putin during a 90-minute telephone conversation.

But Obama's request was unlikely to be granted. The Kremlin said Putin emphasized to Obama that real threats exist to the life and health of Russian citizens living in Ukraine and that Russia has the right to protect its interests there.

Russian troops took over Crimea on Saturday after the parliament in Moscow gave Putin the authority to send them in.

The newly installed government in Ukraine was powerless to react to the spread of Russian troops.

"President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity," the White House said late Saturday in a statement, calling Russia's actions a breach of international law, including Russia's obligations under the U.N. Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine.

"The United States condemns Russia's military intervention into Ukrainian territory," the statement said.

A statement from the Kremlin said Putin emphasized to Obama the existence of "real threats" to the life and health of Russian citizens and compatriots who are in Ukrainian territory.

"Vladimir Putin emphasized that, in the case of a further spread in violence in eastern regions (of Ukraine) and Crimea, Russia maintains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population that lives there," the Kremlin statement said.
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