Obama, Putin discuss Ukraine in phone call
US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have discussed a number of issues, including the situation in Ukraine, during a telephone call.
The call, described by a senior US official as “constructive,” took place on Friday.
It came after an initial deal between the Ukrainian government and the opposition to resolve the ongoing crisis in the country following days of deadly clashes.
Obama and Putin agreed that the agreement needed to be swiftly implemented and that all sides needed to refrain from violence, as they also pressed for the need to stabilize the economy.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has said that the agreement involves holding an early presidential election, forming a national unity government, and making changes to the constitution.
Under a newly-proposed constitution, the president’s powers will also be reduced.
Ukraine has been rocked by anti-government protests since Yanukovych refrained from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union on November 29, 2013.
In December, Ukraine and Russia reached a strategic economic and trade deal, which provides Ukraine with significant discounts on imported Russian gas and billions of dollars in credit.
Washington had offered staunch support for the protesters in Kiev, demanding political concessions from the Ukrainian government.
The Obama administration has imposed visa bans on 20 unnamed top Ukrainian officials.
Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted on Wednesday, “I urge the Administration to take immediate action and impose targeted sanctions, including visa restrictions.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and European Affairs subpanel Chairman Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), said in a statement on Wednesday, “We have begun working together on legislation that would impose targeted sanctions on government officials.”
Last December, McCain and Murphy joined around 200,000 anti-government protesters in the central square of Ukraine's capital.