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Obama threatens to penalize Putin over Ukraine

 

WASHINGTON -- President Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday that the U.S. may boycott an upcoming economic summit in Russia and threatened further penalties if Moscow does not recall its military forces from Ukrainian territory.

In a 90-minute telephone call, Obama warned Putin that Russia faces "greater political and economic isolation," according to a White House description of the call. The president suggested the United Nations would take action for what he called a "breach of international law."

Obama made the threats as the two leaders publicly clashed over the deepening crisis in the former Soviet state.

Obama warned Friday that "there will be costs" to the Russian military intervention in the Ukrainian region of Crimea, a hot bed of opposition to the newly established, pro-Western transitional government in Kiev. Putin nonetheless sought authorization for military action from the Russian Senate, saying Moscow had a right to protect its military bases in the region.

Obama told Putin on Saturday that the U.S recognized "Russia’s deep historic and cultural ties to Ukraine and the need to protect the rights of ethnic Russian and minority populations within Ukraine." But he urged Putin to engage directly with the interim leaders in Kiev to protect those rights.

Putin's moves have sent the White House scrambling to react. Obama's national security advisors met at the White House on Saturday to plot a response, while Obama dialed up foreign leaders.

The White House has said it is considering diplomatic steps that might underscore Obama's message to Putin. Chief among them is canceling Obama's plans to attend a Group of Eight summit in Sochi, Russia, this year.

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

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