Barack Obama has sharply criticised Russian support for crackdowns in Ukraine and Syria, calling for a transitional government in Kiev and personally accusing Vladimir Putin of failing to respect basic freedoms in both countries.

In his most explicit comments yet on alleged Kremlin involvement, the president used a press conference at the North American leaders’ summit in Mexico to warn against viewing the countries as a “cold war chessboard”, insisting the US was “on the side of the people”.

“You have, in this situation, one country that has clearly been a client state of Russia, another whose government is currently being supported by Russia, where the people obviously have a very different view and vision for their country,” said Obama.

“I think this is an expression of the hopes and aspirations of people inside of Syria and people inside of the Ukraine who recognise that basic freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, fair and free elections – are fundamental rights that everybody wants to enjoy.”

Obama continued with an unusually personal attack on the Russian president, suggesting recent setbacks in Ukraine and at Syrian peace talks had pushed their already strained relationship to a fresh low.

“Mr Putin has a different view on many of those issues [of basic freedom] and I don’t think that there’s any secret on that,” he said.

“Our approach in the United States is not to see these as some cold war chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia. Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future, that the people of Syria are able to make the decisions without having bombs going off… see more

source: guardian UK