Via Daily Beast:
Since the invasion of Crimea, President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama have had regular phone calls in an often half-hearted attempt to deescalate the ongoing crisis inside Ukraine.
But as the U.S. and EU prepare to unveil new sanctions against Russia, Putin has decided the interactions should stop. The Kremlin has ended high-level contact with the Obama administration, according to diplomatic officials and sources close to the Russian leadership. The move signals an end to the diplomacy, for now.
“Putin will not talk to Obama under pressure,” said Igor Yurgens, Chairman of the Institute for Contemporary Development, a prominent Moscow think tank, and a close associate of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. “It does not mean forever.”
Obama and Putin last spoke over the phone on April 14, a call that the White House said was initiated at Moscow’s request. Obama urged Putin in the call to end Kremlin support for armed, pro-Russian activists creating unrest in eastern Ukraine. Obama also warned that the U.S. would impose more “costs” on Russia if Putin continued his current course. According to the Kremlin’s readout of the call, Putin denied Russian interference in eastern Ukraine and said “that such speculations are based on inaccurate information.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been unable to get Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on the phone amid escalating tension near the country’s shared border with Ukraine.
Mr. Shoigu announced Thursday that Russia planned to engage in a new series of military exercises near the Ukraine border. The military move, he said, is in response to ongoing NATO training exercises in Poland and the death of at least two pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Friday that Mr. Hagel has been trying to communicate with Russian officials but has yet to hear back from Mr. Shoigu or anyone else. Pentagon officials have reached out to Russia on Mr. Hagel’s behalf within the past 24 hours, according to Col. Warren.
“We have made it clear to the Russians that Secretary Hagel is available for a phone call at any time,” he said. “We have reached out to them and made it very to them that he is willing to speak to his counterpart there at any time.”