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Kerry: Repercussions for Putin 'act of aggression'

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm •  Published: March 2, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Western powers are prepared "to go to the hilt" to isolate Russia for its military incursion into Ukraine, "an incredible act of aggression" that may lead to visa bans, asset freezes, trade and investment penalties, and a boycott of a Russian-hosted economic summit of global powers in June, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday.

Kerry said Russian President Vladimir Putin should respect the democratic process through which the Ukrainian people ousted their pro-Russian president and assembled a new government.

But President Barack Obama had pressed his case in a 90-minute phone call Saturday with Putin, calling Russia's actions "a clear violation" of Ukraine's sovereignty, and asking for his forces to pull back, and still the situation only grew more dire Sunday.

Ukraine's new prime minister warned that "we are on the brink of disaster," while hundreds of armed men in trucks and armored vehicles surrounded a Ukrainian military base in Crimea.

Kerry is considering a stop in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, during his trip this coming week to Paris and Rome for discussions on Lebanon and Syria.

Despite the strong words Sunday from America's top diplomat, the Obama administration struggled to find a response that might deter Putin, who contends that the turmoil in its neighbor posed real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens living in Ukraine and that Moscow has the right to protect them.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., suggested suspending Russia's membership in the Group of Eight leading industrial powers for at least a year, "starting right now," and admitting Georgia into NATO in an effort to create "a democratic noose around Putin's Russia."

"Let's challenge him where we can," Graham said, explaining why he also favors reviving plans for a U.S. missile defense system with components in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia's "incredible act of aggression" amounts to "a stunning willful choice" by Putin to invade another country on a "trumped-up pretext," Kerry said.

Kerry said he spoke on Saturday with foreign ministers from the G-8 and a few other nations, and "every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia" because of the invasion.

"They're prepared to put sanctions in place. They're prepared to isolate Russia economically. The ruble is already going down. Russia has major economic challenges. I can't imagine that an occupation of another country is something that appeals to a people who are trying to reach out to the world, and particularly if it involves violence," Kerry said.

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