MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken with Barack Obama on the phone just a handful of times this year.
According to Kremlin records collated and analyzed by NBC News, Obama has chatted with Putin just five times since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea on March 21, and only 10 times during 2014. The White House confirmed the figures.
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German leader Angela Merkel has had 33 phone calls with Putin this calendar year, according to the Kremlin. Merkel grew up in Soviet-controlled East Germany and she speaks Russian while Putin is fluent in German. She has played a key role in negotiations with Russia during the crisis with the West over Moscow's military involvement in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Overall, the Kremlin said Putin has been on 130 phone calls involving world leaders this year. French President Francois Hollande has spoken to the Russian leader 15 times, the Kremlin records show. Obama’s level of contact is roughly in line with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has had nine calls with Putin. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and British Prime Minister David Cameron have both spoken to Putin just six times by phone.
Four of Obama's calls were in March, the month in which Moscow annexed Crimea. They included a 90-minute marathon conversation in early March as Russian troops began to mobilize on the peninsula, according to the Kremlin.
- Albina Kovalyova, Alexander Smith and Stacey Klein