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Foreign affairs

Diplomatic efforts to ease Russia-Ukraine tensions begin shakily

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President Barack Obama's national security team met today following Russia's decision to send troops into Ukraine. Obama did not attend the meeting, but he spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Voicing "deep concern over Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty," Obama called for Russia to withdraw from Crimea immediately. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry got on the phone with acting Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchynov.

White House officials said the U.S. is currently focused on diplomatic options, but even those got off to a shaky start, when a U.N. Security Council meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday was delayed because diplomats could not agree as to whether the discussions should be held privately or made open to the public.

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said "certain countries" wanted the meetings held publicly, while he had opted for a closed-door session; those countries, which other diplomats said included the U.S., Britain, and France, eventually won out. Where those U.N. talks can go is somewhat limited, though, because as a permanent member, Russia has the option of vetoing any council resolution.