US warns Russia against deeper push into Ukraine
Monitors from the OSCE head for Russian-controlled Crimea
Mourners carry the coffin of Volodymyr Topij, one of protesters that clashed with police at Kiev’s Independence Square, during his funeral in the city yesterday. Photograph: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
The United States has accused Russia of planning to push deeper into Ukraine, as international monitors prepared to travel to a Crimea now controlled by Moscow’s troops.
On a visit to Kiev during which he pledged $1 billion (€730 million) in loan guarantees to Ukraine’s embattled new government, US secretary of state John Kerry condemned Russia’s “aggression”.
“It is clear that Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further,” added Mr Kerry. “Russia has talked about Russian-speaking ordinary citizens that are under siege. They are not. And in fact this government has acted remarkably responsibly.”
Moscow claims speakers of Russian in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine are in danger from the new government in Kiev, which it says comprises far-right, Russian-hating extremists.
Mr Kerry said the contrast between Russia and Ukraine “could not be clearer: determined Ukrainians demonstrating strength through unity, and the Russian government, out of excuses, hiding its hand behind falsehoods, intimidation and provocations”.
Having accused Russia of being on “the wrong side of history” and breaking international law in Ukraine, US president Barack Obama said: “President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers, making a different set of interpretations . . . But I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.
“I think everybody recognises that although Russia has legitimate interests in what happens in a neighbouring state, that does not give it the right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside of that state.”
Washington is considering suspending military co-operation with Moscow, imposing sanctions and placing visa bans and asset freezes on Russian individuals.
European Union leaders will discuss possible sanctions at an emergency meeting tomorrow. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday and plans to visit Kiev today.
US bank loans
Sergei Glazyev, an aide to Mr Putin on Ukraine and economic matters, warned that if sanctions were imposed Russian firms would not repay loans to US banks, resulting “in a crash for the financial system of the United States, which would cause the end of the domination of the United States in the global financial system”.
Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe arrived in Kiev last night ahead of a planned visit to Crimea. The group’s media freedom chief, Dunja Mijatoviæ, also intends to travel to the mostly ethnic- Russian peninsula today.
Despite Russia’s intervention in Crimea, Minister of State for Health Alex White still plans to travel on the Government’s behalf to Moscow for St Patrick’s Day.
“Obviously, I like everyone am watching events in the Ukraine and in Russia but any change to the decision that the Government has made would be a matter for the Government and not for me,” he said.