MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin on Monday told US counterpart Barack Obama that charges of Russia meddling in eastern Ukraine were "unfounded", the Kremlin said.
"In reply to concern voiced by the American president about so-called Russian interference in southeast Ukraine, the Russian president remarked that such speculations are based on unfounded information," said a statement, referring to a telephone conversation between the two leaders.
As pro-Russian insurgents gained ground Monday in Ukraine's separatist east the Kremlin said Putin asked Obama to do everything possible to avoid the use of force and bloodshed.
It also repeated a call for talks by "all main political forces and regions" to establish federal structures in Ukraine that would give more power to its regions.
The Kremlin said Putin and Obama agreed to pursue efforts to find a diplomatic solution before talks Thursday in Geneva between the European Union, Ukraine, Russia and the United States to de-escalate the crisis.
There were no immediate readouts of their phone call from the White House, which earlier was the first to say it would take place.
Kiev's Western-backed leaders on Monday sought a way out of the crisis by proposing a referendum and seeking UN help, while the Kremlin earlier added an ominous tone to the rapid escalation by saying that Putin had received "a lot" of requests from Ukraine's Russified rust belt "to help, to intervene in some form".