Obama, Russia’s Putin Discuss Ukraine in Phone Call

A version of the article was first published on the Voice of America website August 1.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have spoken by telephone about the Ukraine crisis, with Obama reiterating his “deep concerns” about Russia’s increased support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The White House said August 1 that President Obama reinforced his preference for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, and that the two leaders “agreed to keep open their channels of communication.”

It said Obama also expressed concern about Russia’s compliance with a 1987 treaty on intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which Washington says Moscow has violated.

The Kremlin, for its part, said Putin told the U.S. president in the telephone call that the fresh sanctions imposed on Russia this week for its support for the separatists were “counterproductive” and would cause “serious damage to bilateral cooperation and international stability.”

Earlier in the day, several dozen international investigators began working at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine.

Investigators from the Netherlands and Australia, along with officials from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe began combing an area now designated as a crime scene.

They will focus on recovering several dozen bodies still missing and retrieving the belongings of the 298 people killed when the Boeing 777 was shot down last month.

Also on August 1, 10 Ukrainian paratroopers were killed in an ambush by pro-Russian separatists near the town of Shakhtarsk, which is located not far from the crash site.

The acting commander of Ukraine’s airborne troops, Colonel Yuriy Halushkin, told reporters in Kyiv 13 other paratroopers were wounded and 11 are missing.

Ukraine and Western governments blame rebels for the shootdown. U.S. analysts say the jetliner was likely downed by pro-Russian separatists launching a Russian missile. There were no survivors.

Rebels intent on establishing autonomous republics near the Russian border have been battling Ukrainian troops for three months.

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