Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo by AP
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Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday night, to discuss a number of issues including Iran and the escalating crisis in Ukraine.

During the conversation, which was initiated by Netanyahu, the leaders discussed "current issues in bilateral cooperation and on the international agenda, including progress in talks on the Iranian nuclear program," Putin's website reported.

At Netanyahu's request, Putin provided an assessment of events in Ukraine. "The President of Russia pointed out that the sharp escalation of the crisis is the result of Kiev’s irresponsible policy, which disregards the lawful rights and interests of the country’s Russian-speaking citizens. He stressed the inadmissibility of the current regime’s use of armed forces to suppress public protests in southeastern Ukraine."

The leaders agreed to continue regular exchanges of opinion on issues of mutual interest.

Netanyahu had come under fire recently from the United States over Israel's failure to back its stance in condemning Russia. A senior U.S. official said one of the reasons for the White House’s anger was Israel’s absence two weeks ago at a UN General Assembly vote to condemn the Russian invasion and support Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Israel has told the United States of its concerns that taking a public stance against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine could cause real damage to its security interests, an Israeli official involved in the talks with Washington told Haaretz on Sunday.

Putin also had a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in which he said that the current escalation in Ukraine "essentially puts the nation on the brink of civil war."

According to the website, "the leaders of Russia and Germany stressed the vital importance of the four-party (Russia, EU, US, Ukraine) talks scheduled for Thursday. Hope was expressed that the meeting in Geneva would send a clear signal to help take the situation in a peaceful direction."