Obama warns Russia, says it broke international law in Ukraine

US President Barack Obama warned Russia on Tuesday by saying that most of the world believes that Moscow has violated international law by intervening in Ukraine.

PTI| Updated: Mar 04, 2014, 10:33 AM IST

Washington: US President Barack Obama warned Russia on Tuesday by saying that most of the world believes that Moscow has violated international law by intervening in Ukraine.

The American leader said Moscow had put itself "on the wrong side of history" by mobilizing forces within Ukraine after the country`s pro-Russian president was ousted in a popular revolt.

"I think the world is largely united in recognizing the steps Russia has taken are a violation of Ukranian sovereignty ... A violation of international law," Obama said.

Ukraine`s new westward-leaning government has accused Russia of mounting a de facto invasion by deploying troops on Ukrainian soil in the Crimean peninsula.

But Moscow protests it may be forced to act to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine amid the chaos following the uprising against fugitive former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Western powers are mulling sanctions to punish Russia for its intervention.

Obama said he had told Russia that "if in fact they continue on the current trajectory, that we are examining a whole series of steps -- economic, diplomatic -- that will isolate Russia."

Obama said that he spent the weekend talking to leaders across Europe.

"I think the world is largely united in recognising that the steps Russia has taken are a violation of Ukraine`s sovereignty, Ukraine`s territorial integrity; that they`re a violation of international law; they`re a violation of previous agreements that Russia has made with respect to how it treats and respects its neighbours," he said.

"And, as a consequence, we got strong statements from NATO, from the G7, condemning the actions that Russia has taken. We are going to continue these diplomatic efforts during the course of this week," he added.
"The question for the Russian government generally is if their concern is the rights of all Ukrainians are respected, if, in fact, their primary concern, as they`ve stated, is that Russian speakers and Russian nationals are not in any way harmed or abused or discriminated against, then we should be able to set up international monitors," he said.

"And an international effort that mediates between various parties, that is able to broker a deal that is satisfactory to the Ukrainian people -- not to the United States, not to Russia, but to the Ukrainian people -- and we should be able to deescalate the situation," Obama said.

The US, he said, has been very specific with the Russians about how that might be done under the auspices of either the United States or the OSCE, or some other international organisation.

"So there are really two paths that Russia can take at this point. Obviously, the facts on the ground in Crimea are deeply troubling and Russia has a large army that borders Ukraine. But what is also true is that over time this will be a costly proposition for Russia. And now is the time for them to consider whether they can serve their interests in a way that resorts to diplomacy as opposed to force," he said.

Referring to the calls being made from the Congress about doing something, Obama said one thing they can do right away is to work with the administration to help provide a package of assistance to the Ukrainians, to the people and that government.

"When they get back in, assuming the weather clears, I would hope that would be the first order of business. Because at this stage there should be unanimity among Democrats and Republicans that when it comes to preserving the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked, we should be able to come up with a unified position that stands outside of partisan politics," he said.

"And my expectation is that I`ll be able to get Congress to work with us in order to achieve that goal," Obama said.