Barack Obama urges Russia to decrease tensions in Ukraine

US president spoke with Russian counterpart by phone

President Barack Obama is calling on Russia to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine by pulling its forces back to bases in the country's Crimean peninsula and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine.

The White House says Obama delivered that message to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a 90-minute telephone call on Saturday afternoon.

A statement from the White House says the U.S. condemns Russia's military reach into Ukrainian territory.

Russia says Putin emphasized that real threats exist to the life and health of Russian citizens and that Russia has the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking people who live in that part of Ukraine.

Russia's parliament on Saturday gave Putin the right to deploy the Russian military in Ukraine.

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