Obama, Putin agree on need to ensure Ukraine deal works

WASHINGTON Fri Feb 21, 2014 6:45pm EST

People cheer as they listen to speeches in front of a statue in Independence Square in Kiev February 21, 2014. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

People cheer as they listen to speeches in front of a statue in Independence Square in Kiev February 21, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Friday that a deal aimed at halting bloody clashes between government forces and protesters in Ukraine needs to be quickly implemented so that the country stabilizes, a U.S. official said.

The two leaders spoke by phone after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and opposition leaders signed the European Union-mediated peace deal.

"They agreed that the agreement reached today needed to be implemented quickly, that it was very important to encourage all sides to refrain from violence, that there was a real opportunity here for a peaceful outcome," a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call.

The White House said details of the agreement are consistent with what the United States had been urging, such as a de-escalation of the violence, constitutional change, a coalition government and early elections.

The State Department official warned that the deal remains "very, very fragile" and said international support will be needed to help stabilize the country.

"This has been a very tough sell and will continue to be a tough sell for the opposition to make to those on the streets. This is not least because of the horrible, horrible violence of the last two days," the official said.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will go to Kiev early next week and Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland likely will visit in early March to be part of international support for the implementation process.

Senior U.S. officials had been preparing new sanctions to impose on Ukraine's government after dozens of people were killed in Kiev during mass demonstrations this week.

The White House reiterated that those responsible for the violence must be held accountable.

"We are not ruling out sanctions to hold those responsible for the violence accountable, especially should there be further violence or violation of the agreement," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Carney said efforts of the French, Polish and German foreign ministers as well as U.S. leaders helped bring about the deal. He added that "Russia witnessed the agreement and ... played an important role in that respect."

"It is in Russia's interest that Ukraine not be engulfed in violence - Kiev or other places - and that it return to stability, and that progress be made toward a future in Ukraine that reflects the will of the Ukrainian people," Carney told a news briefing.

"So it's very important to view this not as a tug-of-war between East and West or the United States and Russia," he added.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Will Dunham; Editing by G Crosse and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (4)
willich6 wrote:
It will be important for the US to follow the lead of the EU; this is their backyard and our interests are (or should be) aligned.. I agree with some analysts that the EU was caught with its pants down, when Putin ‘bought’ Ukraine out of the EU deal.. They should have expected this…
Now is the time for the EU to ‘go big’ with serious policy initiatives and investments for Ukraine; The best that may be possible is for Ukraine to revert to a sort of ‘non-aligned’ status with a foot on both the Russia and EU economic ‘spheres of influence’.. Both sides could then ‘claim’ victory, but the Ukraine government will have to ‘go’, as a peace offering..
Putin won’t back down and ‘allow’ Ukraine to align with Europe – he’s a proud little guy and has a lot of personal credibility at stake – I wouldn’t push him to cross the line like the Georgians did.. Didn’t work out so well for Georgia..
We’ll see if our diplomats can keep their mouthes shut and be good team players… That’s a tall order for kerry…

Feb 21, 2014 12:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
sabrefencer wrote:
Obama and crew, you’ve done nothing but talk…No one listens anymore…the Russian bear, has sent in, its Intel and Spetsnaz troops …there are things we can do, to make the chances, for a free Ukraine, without entering into a shooting war…let Putin move unopposed, makes way for the Russian tanks to start rolling again….which you already know, is being planned….stop with the cameras already, get down to some serious work…

Feb 21, 2014 12:39pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Eideard wrote:
We’re the cops of the world, mom. It’s our god-given right to tell the voters of Ukraine they elected the wrong government. Besides, the children and grandchildren of Ukrainians who volunteered to serve the Germans in western Ukraine haven’t full employment.

Oh, and restore the Kulaks.

Feb 21, 2014 1:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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