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 / Updated  / Source: Reuters

MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he welcomed signs that Ukraine's government in Kiev was ready for dialogue with separatists on Tuesday, calling it "a step in the right direction," the Interfax news agency reported.

Speaking during a visit to Beijing, Lavrov said Kiev's apparent willingness to "resolve through negotiations all the problems relating to the legal demands of the inhabitants of the southeast regions of Ukraine, is certainly a step in the right direction, albeit very belated."

Reuters

Lavrov's statement followed Monday's telephone conversation between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which Obama criticized Russia and said Moscow's actions in Ukraine were not conducive to a diplomatic solution.

The Kremlin said it had requested the call. The White House said the call was frank and direct.

"President Putin called on Barack Obama to do his utmost to use the opportunities that the United States has to prevent the use of force, and bloodshed," the Kremlin said in a statement. The White House said Obama urged Russia to use its influence to get separatists in the country to stand down.

- Reuters