Obama calls Putin to offer Russia a ‘way out’ of Ukraine crisis after he ordered first sanctions on Moscow
By Daily Mail Reporter
18:32 06 Mar 2014, updated 02:42 07 Mar 2014
Proposed referendum ‘violates international law’ U.S. President says
U.S. pulls visa approval for anyone helping destabilize the Ukraine and left the path open for future financial sanction
Barack Obama ordered the West’s first sanctions in response to Russia’s military takeover of Crimea on Thursday, declaring his determination not to let the Kremlin carve up Ukraine.
The President asserted that a hastily scheduled referendum on Crimea seceding and becoming part of Russia would violate international law.
European leaders announced their own measures but split over how forcefully to follow America’s lead. Obama threatened further steps if Russia persists.
Laying down the law: President Obama said that America is working in conjunction with international partners but also signed an executive order to levy sanctions on Russia and revoked visas for certain Russian nationals
After announcing his sanctions at midday, Obama emphasized his resolve in a personal telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin later Thursday, the White House said.
In a one-hour discussion, Obama affirmed his contention that Russia’s actions violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The President told Putin there was still a way to resolve the dispute diplomatically, the White House said,with Russian forces moving back to their base in Crimea, the governments of Ukraine and Russia holding direct talks and international monitors arriving.
The U.S. is also calling on Russia to recognize the legitimacy of Ukrainian plans for elections in May, not the Crimean referendum a week from Sunday.
In all, signs still pointed to a continuing diplomatic battle over Ukraine and what could prove a broader fault line in Europe’s post-Cold War order.
While East and West no longer threaten nuclear war and have vastly expanded commercial ties, Russia is determined to dominate the future of the former Soviet republics along its borders.
Washington, its NATO partners and others across the continent are striving to pull these nations out of Moscow’s orbit.
Crisis talks: Obama told President Putin in a telephone call that Russia could still end its takeover in Crimea diplomatically
Underscoring his position, Obama issued an executive action slapping new visa restrictions on Russian and other opponents of Ukraine’s government in Kiev and authorizing wider financial penalties against those involved in the military intervention or in stealing state assets.
None of the measures appeared aimed at the Russian president personally.
‘Today the world can see that the United States is united with our allies and partners in upholding international law and pursuing a just outcome that advances global security and the future that the Ukrainian people deserve,’ Obama said at the White House.
‘That’s what we’re going to continue to do in the days to come until we have seen a resolution to this crisis.’
Obama hailed U.S. cooperation with the European Union, which imposed its own sanctions on Russia on Thursday.
In an emergency meeting in Brussels, EU leaders decided to suspend talks with Putin’s government on a wide-ranging economic agreement and on granting Russian citizens visa-free travel within the 28-nation bloc – a long-standing Russian objective.
At the same time, Europe’s presidents and prime ministers were divided on more drastic steps such as freezing assets and issuing travel bans on Russian officials.
On guard: The Crimean parliament called a referendum on March 16 to secede and join Russia but international leaders, including President Obama, says taht is illegal
European hesitancy reflected the reality that targeting influential Russian businessmen or major Russian companies would also harm Europe’s economic interests.
Russian investors hold assets worth billions in European banks, particularly in Britain and Cyprus, and major exporters such as Germany and the Netherlands have far more at stake than the United States in Russia’s consumer economy.
Many other European countries depend on Russia for oil and gas supplies.
Russian troops have seized control of much of Crimea, where ethnic Russians are the majority. Moscow doesn’t recognize the Ukrainian government that came to power after protesters ousted the country’s pro-Russian president last month.
Putin and other officials have cited strategic interests as well as the protection of ethnic Russians in making the case for intervention. Russia leases a major navy base there.
The Western debate over how strongly to penalize Russia is important given that neither the U.S. nor Europe is advocating the use of force.
The U.S. military has stepped up joint aviation training with Polish forces and American participation in NATO’s air-policing mission in its Baltic countries. But the Pentagon, like its NATO partners, has strictly ruled out military options.
President Obama declared that the prospect of a portion of the Ukraine seceding in order to join Russia is against international law.
‘We are well beyond the days where borders can be redrawn’ without Democratic leaders,’ he said at a Thursday press conference in the White House.
The President warned that if the Russians would continue in their current path, ‘the resolve of the United States and our allies and the international community will remain firm.’
Press Secretary Jay Carney followed up by saying that the American government is holding Russia accountable for their role in the ongoing political struggle in the Ukraine.
The steps that Russia has taken violates Ukrainian sovereignty and is a breach of international law,’ Carney said.
The President spoke out strongly against a proposed March 16 referendum that Crimean politicians suggested to vote on whether or not they will secede from Ukraine in order to join Russia.
He said that the referendum would ‘violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law’.
Any such referendum, he said, must include representatives from the legitimate Ukrainian government- which was not included in the original plan.
Obama orders sanctions against those involved in Russian move in Ukraine
Obama also signed an executive order that will allow the U.S. to levy financial sanctions.
In a statement, the White House said the penalties would target ‘those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea, and does not preclude further steps should the situation deteriorate.’
Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Union announced it was suspending talks with Russia on an economic pact and on a visa deal in response to the Russian intervention in Crimea.
EU leaders, like Obama, threatened further sanctions if Russia pushes ahead.
Officials in Washington said Russian government officials and entities could be among those sanctioned in the U.S. action, though President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to be targeted directly.
‘We call on Russia to take the opportunity before it to resolve this crisis through direct and immediate dialogue with the government of Ukraine,’ the White House statement read.
Control: Soldiers seen in front of the Air Base in Belbek in Crimea on Thursday show the force that Russia has exerted into the area
Ukraine’s unrest peaked in February, after months of pro-Western protests seeking the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych in anger over economic woes and corruption.
Yanukovych, who is pro-Russian, fled for protection to a location just outside of Moscow, and Putin sent troops into Crimea in a show of force against the upstart government in Kiev.
Crimea is a peninsula that hosts a major Russian navy base and is historically and culturally a Russian stronghold.
The visa bans will be imposed immediately and come in addition to an earlier State Department decision to deny U.S. entry to those involved in human rights abuses related to political oppression in Ukraine.
Officials would not say whether Yanukovych was a target of the visa ban or the sanctions.
The sanctions plan, outlined in an executive order, lays the legal groundwork for the Treasury Department to impose financial penalties on offenders.
The aim is clearly to punish the separatist movement in Crimea as well as Russia for its decision to send military forces there.
Calling legal shots: President Obama said Thursday that it is clear that Russia has violated international law in trying to have Crimea succeed from the Ukraine and reconnect with Russia
Specifically, the sanctions would target people who undermine Ukraine’s democracy and new government; threaten the country’s peace, security, stability and sovereignty; are linked to misappropriations of government assets; and try to assert governmental authority over any part of Ukraine without the consent of Kiev.
They would also prohibit U.S. persons from doing business with those who have been sanctioned.
Congress has been rushing to impose hard-hitting sanctions on Russia in response to its takeover of Crimea, hoping Europe will follow the lead of the United States in upping the pressure on Putin’s government.
The U.S. sanctions push represents a rare case of broad agreement among the Obama administration and Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress.
That said, they all are also united in their concern that American economic penalties will mean little without the participation of European countries with far deeper commercial relations with Russia
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