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Obama, Putin discuss Ukraine crisis
February 22, 2014, 9:31 am

Vigils and mourning ceremonies were held in  Kiev's Independence Square and the government district on Friday [Xinhua]

Vigils and mourning ceremonies were held in Kiev’s Independence Square and the government district on Saturday [Xinhua]

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his American counterpart Barack Obama during a phone conversation on Friday that “immediate measures” are required to stabilise the situation in the Ukraine.

A statement from the Kremlin said that Putin also “emphasised the importance of working with the radical opposition, which has taken the confrontation in Ukraine to a very dangerous point”.

The call was initiated by the White House, the statement said.

For its part, the White House released a statement saying both presidents exchanged their points of view on the need to “implement quickly the political agreement reached today in [Kiev], the importance of stabilizing the economic situation and undertaking necessary reforms, and the need for all sides to refrain from further violence”.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and three main opposition leaders on Friday signed a deal to hold early elections in December and reduce presidential powers (by returning to tenets in the 2004 constitution) in a bid to quell the violence that has claimed dozens of lives among protesters and security forces.

Some armed protesters, however, have issued an ultimatum for Yanukovych to resign.

On Friday night, relative calm had been restored in the capital Kiev as security forces had withdrawn from Independence Square and the government district of the city, the scene of fierce clashes in recent weeks.

Protests in Ukraine began last November after the government reversed a decision to sign a long-awaited trade deal with the EU, receiving instead a $15 billion bailout from northern neighbour, Russia and promises of closer ties.

As the crisis intensified, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned in January.

The situation seemed to be easing up in Kiev earlier in the week, but on Thursday protesters refused constitutional amendments to curb presidential powers, and in the ensuing clashes with security forces, at least 70 people were killed and hundreds injured.

In a previous phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said Western countries should move away from their accusatory attitude towards Ukraine’s incumbent leadership and “stressed the importance of strongly condemning the opposition forces liable for organising unlawful extremist and terrorist activities”.

On February 1, Moscow had urged the European Union to condemn the violence.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s parliament speaker Volodymyr Rybak has resigned for health reasons, the Interfax news agency reported on Saturday.

Related: Not Moscow or EU – Ukraine needs internal reconciliation

Source: Agencies