Hagel calls his Russian counterpart over Ukraine

U.N. chief phones Putin to express ‘grave’ concern over Russia’s escalation in Ukraine

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U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Saturday after Moscow approved sending troops into Ukraine following a bloody three-month uprising there, Agence France-Presse reported.

“Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel spoke to his Russian counterpart this morning,” a U.S. defense official told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity.


Hagel then went to the White House for a meeting on the crisis.

Officials said there was “no change” to the U.S. military’s presence in the region.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama met with his national security team Saturday to weigh policy options regarding Ukraine and Russia, a White House official said.

Senior members of the Washington national security establishment, including General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were earlier seen heading into the White House for the rare Saturday meeting.

U.N. reaction

The U.N. chief called for immediate calm in Ukraine on Saturday as the Security Council convened an emergency session in New York.

Ban Ki-moon will express “grave” concerns directly to Putin by telephone, his spokesman said, as tensions escalated in Ukraine.

“He calls for an immediate restoration of calm and direct dialogue between all concerned to solve the current crisis,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York.

“The secretary general wants to speak to President Putin directly to express his concerns. But also to hear directly from President Putin his assessment of the situation.”

Britain called the emergency talks at the U.N. Security Council, meeting Saturday for the second time in 24 hours to discuss the unfolding crisis.

“We are deeply concerned about the situation, especially the developments over the last 24 hours,” British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters on his way into the session.

“That is why we have called this emergency session to find out what justification Russia claims to have for the actions they are taking at the moment,” he added.

The U.N. secretary general reiterated his call “for the full respect for, and preservation of, the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Poised to fly to Europe, Ban has ordered the deputy secretary general to brief Saturday’s emergency Security Council talks.

“The most important thing is to raise concerns about what is happening on the ground,” said Raimonda Murmokaite, ambassador of Lithuania, the current president of the Council.

The U.N. envoy to Ukraine, Robert Serry, said Saturday he was leaving the country and ruled out a visit to the Crimea region as requested by Ban following emergency talks Friday.

“I have since been in touch with the authorities of the autonomous republic of Crimea and have come to the conclusion that a visit to Crimea today is not possible,” Serry said.

He said he would brief Ban in Geneva and “consult with him on next steps.”

Ukrainian Defense Minister Igor Tenyukh on Saturday accused Russia of sending 30 armored personnel carriers and 6,000 additional troops into Crimea.

Dozens of pro-Russian armed men in full combat gear patrolled outside the seat of power in Crimea’s capital Simferopol.

Similar gunmen seized the city’s parliament and government buildings on Thursday and took control of its airport and a nearby military base on Friday.

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