Obama Lays Blame on Russia for Violence in Ukraine

The president said Thursday that there is no doubt that Russia is responsible for the separatist movement in Ukraine.

National Journal
Marina Koren
Aug. 28, 2014, 12:37 p.m.

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.”

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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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