Putin to Obama: Russia not behind Ukraine protests

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MOSCOW (AP) -- The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin has urged President Barack Obama to discourage the Ukrainian government from using force against protesters in the country's east.

The Kremlin said in a statement following Monday's conversation that the Russian leader rejected the claims of Russian agents' involvement in protests as "speculations based on unreliable information." Putin said the protests vented public anger about the Ukrainian government's reluctance to recognize the interests of Russian speakers in the east.

More than a dozen government offices and police stations have been seized by mobs. The Ukrainian government and the West have accused Russia of staging the protests.

The Ukrainian authorities have pledged to dislodge protesters. The Kremlin said Putin urged Obama to use American influence in Ukraine to prevent the use of force and bloodshed.

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