President Obama on Thursday pinned the blame on Russia for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, offering some of his toughest comments yet on the Kremlin's involvement.
There is no doubt that the conflict, the president said during a press conference, "is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia. They are armed by Russia. They are funded by Russia."
Obama on Ukraine Violence: 'Russia Is Responsible'
The remarks mark some of the strongest public condemnation of Russia's role in Ukraine by the White House since the crisis began earlier this year. This week, Russian troops and military equipment trickled over the border and into eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have been locked in battle with pro-Russia separatists since April. More than 2,000 people have died in the conflict.
Earlier on Thursday, NATO released satellite imagery that it says shows Russian armed forces inside Ukraine. The agency said that more than 1,000 Russian soldiers have now joined separatists there.
"Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see," Obama said.
Some Western and Ukrainian officials have called the recent escalation by Russia a "stealth invasion." Obama declined to refer to the conflict as such when asked by a reporter.
Russia has denied it is providing resources to rebel forces in Ukraine. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said during an emergency meeting of the organization Thursday that Russia must "stop lying" about its involvement in Ukraine. In response, Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the U.N., put the blame for the recent escalation on Ukraine's attempts to drive separatists from the region. "This was an obvious step toward escalation," he said. "Insurgents couldn't just lay down their weapons and give up and leave for Russia."
Obama said Thursday that continued Russian intervention in Ukraine would bring "costs and consequences" for Moscow. The president ruled out military action, and did not say whether his administration is considering another round of sanctions.
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