There are two sides to every story, and nowhere is that more evident than in President Obama’s call yesterday to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The White House’s take (which took the National Security Council two hours to craft after they first let we in the media know the statement was forthcoming):
President Obama spoke this afternoon with President Putin of Russia. President Obama emphasized that the Crimean “referendum,” which violates the Ukrainian constitution and occurred under duress of Russian military intervention, would never be recognized by the United States and the international community. He emphasized that Russia’s actions were in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that, in coordination with our European partners, we are prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions.
President Obama underscored that there remains a clear path for resolving this crisis diplomatically, in a way that addresses the interests of both Russia and the people of Ukraine. He noted that the Ukrainian government continues to take concrete steps that would allow for the de-escalation of the crisis, particularly as it prepares for elections this Spring and undertakes constitutional reform, and he asked that Russia support the immediate deployment of international monitors to help prevent acts of violence by any groups.
President Obama reiterated that a diplomatic resolution cannot be achieved while Russian military forces continue their incursions into Ukrainian territory and that the large-scale Russian military exercises on Ukraine’s borders only exacerbate the tension. President Obama said that Secretary Kerry continues to be prepared to work together with Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Ukrainian government to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.
And the Kremlin version:
At the US initiative, Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama.
The two presidents continued discussions on the various aspects of the crisis in Ukraine. Mr Putin noted that the current authorities in Kiev have so far failed to demonstrate the ability and desire to rein in the ultranationalist and radical groups that are destabilising the situation in the country and terrorising ordinary people, including the Russian-speaking population and Russia’s compatriots.
In this context, the two presidents discussed the possibility of sending an OSCE mission to monitor the situation in Ukraine. Mr Putin said that this mission, if it goes ahead, should cover all parts of Ukraine.
Regarding the March 16 referendum in Crimea, Mr Putin said that the decision to hold the referendum was in line with international law and the UN Charter, and was also in line with the precedent set by Kosovo. The referendum was organised in such a way as to guarantee Crimea’s population the possibility to freely express their will and exercise their right to self-determination.
The two presidents said that despite their differences of opinion, they must continue working together to seek solutions that will help to stabilise the situation in Ukraine.
Mr Obama congratulated Mr Putin on the success of the Paralympic Games and asked Mr Putin to pass on his greetings to the athletes.
The National Security Council got publicly snippy with an AP writer when he questioned on Twitter why it was taking them so long to produce a readout of the call.
Sure taking @NSCPress long time to put out promised readout of Obama/Putin call. Been over an hour. Is it being edited for rough language?
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) March 16, 2014
@APDiploWriter feel free to speculate for a few more minutes, but it’ll be out momentarily. We aren’t a wire service like the AP.
— @NSCPress (@NSCPress) March 16, 2014
— Lizzie O’Leary (@lizzieohreally) March 16, 2014