Washington: US President Barack Obama has said the tough sanctions imposed on Russia by his administration and the European Union are putting enormous pressure and strain on Russian economy.
"Sanctions are working as intended in putting enormous pressure and strain on the Russian economy," Obama said yesterday.
"That`s not my estimation, if you look at the markets and you look at estimates in terms of capital flight, if you look at projections for Russian growth, what you`re seeing is that the economy has ground to a halt," he said.
Noting that somewhere between USD 100 to 200 billion of capital flight had taken place, Obama said not many new investors were starting their business in Russia.
He said sanctions present the choice to Russian President Vladimir Putin as to whether he would try to resolve the issues in eastern Ukraine through diplomacy and peaceful means. Recognising that Ukraine is a sovereign country.
"It is up ultimately to the Ukrainian people to make decisions about their own lives, or, alternatively, continue on the course that he`s on, in which case he`s going to be hurting his economy and hurting his own people over the long term," he said in response to a question.
Highlighting that his government was "very pleased" with the support from European allies and other partners around the world, he said, "we are doing exactly what we should be doing."
"The issue is not resolved yet. You still have fighting in eastern Ukraine. Civilians are still dying. We`ve already seen some of the consequences of this conflict in the loss of the Malaysian Airlines airliner," he said.
The issue would be resolved, Putin recognises that Ukraine is an independent country, he said.
"In the meantime, sanctions are working the way they`re supposed to," he said.
When asked about the presence of massive Russian army on the Ukrainian border, raising the fear of an invasion, Obama said the Russian army is a lot bigger than the Ukrainian army.
"So the issue here is not whether the Ukrainian army has some additional weaponry. At least up until this point, they`ve been fighting a group of separatists who have engaged in some terrible violence but who can`t match the Ukrainian army," he said.
"Now, if you start seeing an invasion by Russia, that`s obviously a different set of questions. We`re not there yet. What we have been doing is providing a whole host of assistance packages to the Ukrainian government and to defend their country and to deal with the separatist elements that currently are being armed by Russia," he said.
"But the best thing we can do for Ukraine is to try to get back on a political track," he added.