U.S. President Barack Obama in a telephone conversation with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin called on the Russian side to promote the normalization of the situation in the south-east of Ukraine.
"The U.S. president stressed that all irregular forces in the country should lay down their arms," Interfax reports. Obama asked Putin to "use his influence" to ensure that the situation in the south-east of Ukraine stabilizes and radical opponents of the current Kiev authorities release the buildings they occupy.
Earlier, the Kremlin press service said that the two presidents discussed the situation in south-eastern regions of Ukraine that were "gripped with the protest movement against the policies of the current government of Kiev." "The Russian side stressed out that the protests in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Slavyansk and other Ukrainian cities in the south-east was a result of the unwillingness and inability of the leadership in Kiev to take into account the interests of Russian and Russian-speaking population," Kremlin representatives said.
"Putin urged Obama to make the maximum use of capabilities of the American side to prevent the use of force and bloodshed," said the press service.
Barack Obama discussed the situation in Ukraine with French President Francois Hollande. Obama and Hollande threatened Russia with new sanctions.
According to the White House, "separatists" operating in eastern Ukraine, "apparently with the support of Moscow, have stepped up their campaign to undermine and destabilize the Ukrainian government." Washington continues to insist that the authorities in Kiev are very reserved in their actions.
The Elysee Palace released a statement according to which Francois Hollande and Barack Obama expressed a hope that the forthcoming meeting of the contact group would put the beginning of a fruitful dialogue between Russia and Ukraine to de-escalate tensions. The president of France confirmed his intention to develop and implement, together with European partners, a decisive policy of gradually toughening sanctions against Russia.
The EU, Russia, USA and Ukraine will gather for the four-sided meeting in Geneva on April 17, 2014.