MOSCOW – President Obama hasn’t spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin in weeks, despite increasing tensions over Ukraine.
But according to Putin, that’s not his decision.
“This is his choice, I am prepared for dialogue,” he told French journalists in an interview, referring to the fact that there are no plans for them to meet when they see each other this week.
The two leaders will both attend a D-Day commemoration in Normandy, France, on Friday, but the White House says they have no plans to sit down for a meeting. Secretary of State John Kerry, however, will meet with his Russian counterpart on Thursday.
The White House has led the charge to isolate Russia over its alleged interference in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. The G-8 kicked Russia out and will meet as the G-7 in Brussels this week, but America’s allies in Europe are sending mixed signals.
Leaders from France, Great Britain and Germany will all sit down for their own meetings with Putin. On Tuesday, the White House said it had no comment on the European meetings. President Obama said he hoped the leaders would use the meetings to urge Putin to end his alleged meddling in Ukraine.
In his interview with French outlets, excerpts of which were published online today, Putin denied that Russian troops or advisers were operating in southeastern Ukraine.
“There are no Russian military men or instructors in the southeast of Ukraine,” he said.
He added that Ukraine’s leaders should engage in dialogue rather than the military offensive underway in the separatist regions.
“The Ukrainian authorities should arrange a dialogue with their people, and not with the help of tanks and aviation but through negotiations,” Putin said. “People, wherever they live, have rights that need to be protected.”
The full interview is set to air on French TV and radio tonight.