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Ukraine crisis: Obama urges Russia pullback

US President Barack Obama has urged Russia to move its troops in Ukraine’s Crimea region back to their bases and set up a monitoring mission there, White House officials say.

The offer to Russian President Vladimir Putin was made as Moscow remained in de facto control of the strategic region.

Washington has described this as an “act of aggression” by Moscow – a claim denied by Mr Putin.

Meanwhile, Russia said it had tested an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The defence ministry said a Topol RS-12M missile had been successfully launched from Russia’s Kapustin Yar test range near the Caspian Sea to the Sary Shagan range in Kazakhstan.

Washington said it had been given advance notice of the missile launch, as required by bilateral arms treaties.

Tensions have been escalating over Russia’s military deployment in Crimea and warnings that it could also move into eastern Ukraine to protect Russians and Russian speakers there.

The move has triggered wide condemnation across the globe.

President Obama’s offer to Moscow envisaged the return of the Russian troops in Crimea back to the bases of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the peninsula, the White House officials said.

The plan, which Obama discussed with President Putin on Saturday – also calls for sending a group of international monitors to Ukraine to ensure the rights of ethnic Russians are protected.

The proposal was discussed in details in a phone conversation between President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday.

The Kremlin has so far not publicly commented on the offer.

This comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov are due to meet in Paris later on Wednesday.

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