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Obama and Putin discuss Ukraine, Syria, Korea


US president Obama and Russian president Putin
US president Obama and Russian president Putin

WASHINGTON — President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday, covering a wide array of world hotspots in a phone call the Kremlin described as "frank and businesslike." According to a January 13, 2016 USA TODAY report.
The phone call happened just before Obama departed the White House for a two-day post-State of the Union trip to Nebraska and Baton Rouge.
"As usual, they spent a significant portion of their time discussing the need for the Russians to live up to the commitments that they made in Minsk to end their support for the separatists that are destabilizing Ukraine right now," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama flew to Omaha, Neb.
But in a statement released by the Kremlin, Putin suggested that could only happen if the Ukrainian government in Kiev agreed to constitutional reforms and a special status for the eastern Ukraine region, which has a large minority of ethnic Russians.
The two leaders appeared to agree on the need for a political solution in Syria, and Earnest complimented Russia for "the constructive role that they played in this rather painstaking process." But there were differences on the fight against the Islamic State, with the Kremlin complained of "double standards" in defining terrorists — referring to Syrian groups that the United States is supporting in their fight against the Islamic State and the Russian-backed regime of Bashar Assad.
On North Korea, both sides condemned the test of a nuclear device that North Korea claimed was a successful hydrogen bomb. Both the United States and Russia have called the nuclear test a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The Kremlin’s account also included discussion of “a de-escalation of tensions due to the crisis of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.” The White House would not acknowledge whether that issue was discussed.