Putin Calls Obama

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Kerry, Lavrov Assigned to Discuss Proposal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, a gambit that could determine the trajectory of the biggest European security crisis in decades.

Both sides released descriptions of the call that differed on the details but agreed that the two countries’ foreign ministers would meet, an event that could take place as soon as next week.

The Putin call, which senior administration officials described as “frank and direct,” comes after both sides have steadily escalated the biggest confrontation between Russia and the U.S. since the end of the Cold War.

Defying Western warnings, Russia has continued to reposition and augment its forces on the border of eastern Ukraine, according to U.S. officials, raising fears of a wider confrontation.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday dismissed the allegations as invented, saying that Western officials should “take a pain reliever.” And Saturday, just hours after Messrs. Obama and Putin spoke, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia has no intention to or interest in crossing the Ukrainian border.

It remains unclear whether Mr. Putin’s offer was meant as a genuine prelude for talks or the groundwork for a new intervention. Some U.S. officials, skeptical of Mr. Putin’s approach, believe the buildup of forces on the border with Ukraine will give the Russian leader the option of launching another operation if he isn’t satisfied with the outcome of this diplomatic initiative.

The troops may also be a bargaining chip in the talks since any invasion of eastern Ukraine likely would be much more difficult than Russia’s relatively bloodless conquest of Crimea.

The White House said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would meet to discuss a diplomatic proposal the two sides have been bouncing back and forth in recent weeks.

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Putin Calls Obama to Discuss ‘Diplomatic Resolution’ in Ukraine