White House press secretary Jay Carney is reflected in a counter as he speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, April 14, 2014. Carney discussed the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, the Ukraine and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaking for the first time in more than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little sign of agreement on Monday, with the U.S. leader urging pro-Russian forces to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and Putin denying that Moscow was interfering in the region.
The White House said Russia initiated the phone call, which came as pro-Russian forces deepened their insurgency in Ukraine’s east, seizing more than a dozen government buildings.
“The president expressed grave concern about Russian government support for the actions of armed, pro-Russian separatists who threaten to undermine and destabilize the government of Ukraine,” the White House said in a description of Obama’s call with Putin. “The president emphasized that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized.”