President Obama talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone on Monday to discuss the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. Obama told Putin the US is ready to place more sanctions on Russia.
“Russia continues to engage in provocative actions in Eastern Ukraine. The mere presence of the troops, in addition to what else they’ve done inside Ukraine, creates a threat of destabilization within Ukraine,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
“I can assure you that Russia’s provocations – further transgressions and provocations will come with a cost. And I’m not here to specify what cost will come from which specific action, but there have already been costs imposed on Russia; there will be further costs imposed on Russia.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that the United States was prepared to impose sanctions on individuals and entities in the financial services, energy, metals, mining, engineering and defense sectors.
It would be the fourth round of sanctions and quite possibly the toughest. On March 21, Putin officially annexed Crimea from Ukraine and Obama finally signed off on sanctions against Putin’s inner circle and his preferred bank. He did not touch the energy sector, which means more than likely the business and people involved in that sector will be targeted in this round.
The Kremlin released a readout of the call. Putin told Obama “to maximize use of existing capabilities of the American side, to avoid the use of force and bloodshed.”
Since Saturday, pro-Russian forces have seized over 10 government buildings in Donetsk Oblast. Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov told the separatists they had until Monday morning to surrender and receive amnesty, but none did. Instead, forces captured a police station in Horlivka and the Sloviansk airport on Monday. The man who led the siege in Horlivka claimed to be a Russian army lieutenant but could not provide proper documentation on the claim.
Ukraine and the West pointed the finger at Russia, but the Kremlin denied being involved in the attacks. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said they can prove Russia is coordinating the attacks in east Russia but will not present the evidence until April 17 in Geneva. Putin told Obama Russia is not involved in any of the attacks.
Vice President Joe Biden will be in Kiev next week, the highest US official to visit the capital since protests started in November.