Obama to Putin: US readying ‘additional costs’ over Crimea

Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama hinted at possible additional sanctions on Russia, warning his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that the United States and its allies would “never” recognize Crimea’s breakaway vote Sunday.

In a telephone call, Obama told Putin that the vote that found 95 percent of ballots in favor of the Crimean Peninsula leaving Ukraine to rejoin Russia, violated the Ukrainian constitution.

“President Obama emphasized that the Crimean ‘referendum,’ which violates the Ukrainian constitution and occurred under duress of Russian military intervention, would never be recognized by the United States and the international community,” the White House said in a statement.

The vote would mark the most radical redrawing of the map of Europe since Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.

Joining international condemnation from other world capitals, Obama warned that “Russia’s actions were in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that, in coordination with our European partners, we are prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions.”

The Kremlin said earlier that the call was initiated by the American side, as relations between Russia and the United States plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War.

Putin told Obama that the referendum was fully legal, “in line with the norms of international law and the UN charter.”

Ukraine’s new pro-European leaders and the West have branded the referendum “illegal” because the strategic Black Sea region has been under de facto control of Russian forces since the start of the month.
“President Obama underscored that there remains a clear path for resolving this crisis diplomatically, in a way that addresses the interests of both Russia and the people of Ukraine,” the White House statement added.

“President Obama reiterated that a diplomatic resolution cannot be achieved while Russian military forces continue their incursions into Ukrainian territory and that the large-scale Russian military exercises on Ukraine’s borders only exacerbate the tension.”

He also stressed that the interim authorities in Ukraine were taking “concrete” steps to help lower tensions over the crisis ahead of May elections.

Russia should support the “immediate” deployment of international monitors to “help prevent acts of violence by any groups,” according to the White House statement.

Top US diplomat John Kerry is also ready to cooperate with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukraine’s leaders to “find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis,” the statement added.

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