President Barack Obama has told Russian President Vladimir Putin to move his troops away from the Ukrainian border and to begin talking with the current government in Kiev. Many in the world community are worried that Russian troops could quickly invade the border and take over more territory in Ukraine.
Russia could ease tensions with Ukraine if it were to move its troops away from its border with Ukraine and begin direct talks with the Kiev government, President Obama said in an interview aired Friday by CBS News.
“You’ve seen a range of troops massing along that border under the guise of military exercises, but these are not what Russia would normally be doing,” the President said. “It may simply be an effort to intimidate Ukraine, or it may be that they’ve got additional plans.
“And, in either case, what we need right now to resolve and de-escalate the situation would be for Russia to move back those troops and to begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government as well as the international community.”
Russia may have 40,000 troops near its border with Ukraine, two U.S. officials told CNN on Thursday. The officials said that this estimate was largely based on satellite imagery and that a firm number is difficult to assess.
However, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Council of National Security and Defense, Yarema Dukh, told CNN his government estimates 88,000 Russian troops are at the Ukrainian border.
U.S. officials said they believe the higher estimates may reflect Russian troops on alert farther to the east.
Russia has said its troops are carrying out snap military exercises in the region.
Obama said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin still harbors a grievance over the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. “You would have thought that, after a couple of decades, there’d be an awareness on the part of any Russian leader that the path forward is not to revert back to the kinds of practices that were so prevalent during the Cold War.”
Instead, he said, Putin should be moving toward further integration with the world economy.
Obama said that Putin has described the breakup of the Soviet Union as tragic, and that he may feel that the West has taken advantage of Russia.