Vitali Klitschko has announced he will not run for President as Ukraine continues to plan for increased Russian military intervention.
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1724 GMT: Last night, Barack Obama spoke with Vladimir Putin on the phone. Obama proposed a plan that would bring international observers to Crimea and Ukraine in order to ensure the protection of ethnic Russians. This is an excerpt from an official White House statement on the phone call:
President Obama noted that the Ukrainian government continues to take a restrained and de-escalatory approach to the crisis and is moving ahead with constitutional reform and democratic elections, and urged Russia to support this process and avoid further provocations, including the buildup of forces on its border with Ukraine.
President Obama underscored to President Putin that the United States continues to support a diplomatic path in close consultation with the Government of Ukraine and in support of the Ukrainian people with the aim of de-escalation of the crisis. President Obama made clear that this remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. President Obama reiterated that the United States has strongly opposed the actions that Russia has already taken to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
While, according to the Kremlin, Putin was open to diplomatic solutions, the statement released indicated that, once again, Russia is defining the new government in Kiev as extremist and unable to protect Ukrainians. Perhaps more worrying, Putin included more complains about a separatist region of Moldova which many experts think is Putin’s next target. In order to reach Moldova, Putin would need to invade Ukraine:
The Kremlin said in a statement that the Russian president drew Mr Obama’s attention to “the continued rampage of extremists” in Kiev and various regions of Ukraine.
It said these individuals were “committing acts of intimidation towards peaceful residents, government authorities and law enforcement agencies… with impunity”.
Mr Putin suggested examining possible steps the global community could take to help stabilise the situation, the Kremlin statement said.
He also expressed concern at an “effective blockade” of Moldova’s separatist region of Trans-Dniester, where Russia has troops.
Pro-Russian politicians there have sent a request asking to join the Russian Federation.
1715 GMT: Vitali Klitschko, the opposition politician and former heavy weight boxer, has said that he will run for Mayor of Kiev, not for President. Instead, he will back billionaire Petro Poroshenko in the Presidential race. This could easily make Poroshenko the new front runner, though he will still face a major challenge from former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Despite having the name recognition abroad, Klitschko has faced pushback for being the public face of a deal signed between opposition politicians and then-President Viktro Yanukovych. On February 22, the day the deal was inked, Klitschko was booed off the stage at the Maidan rally when he tried to defend the deal to the crowds, many of whom would not accept any deal after the deaths of over 100 people.