US, EU threaten sanctions on Russia; Russian officials deny reported ultimatum to Ukraine
By End the LieBoth the United States and the European Union have threatened to impose sanctions on Russia if they do not withdraw from Crimea, according to reports, as the Russian government denies earlier reports of issuing an ultimatum to Ukrainian forces in Crimea.
Most recently, the Ukrainian government placed their troops on alert as Russian troops took over Crimea. Previously, Russian officials denied taking over an airport in Crimea, though this was later confirmed to be true.
Reports of the Russian Black Sea Fleet telling Ukrainian forces to surrender by 5 a.m. on Tuesday or face assault gained a great deal of traction in the media, but officials are now calling the report “complete nonsense.” The report was quickly picked up by the Associated Press and republished around the web.
Interfax originally quoted an unnamed source in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry on Monday as saying the Black Sea Fleet commander set a deadline to surrender, Reuters reports.
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However, later in the day Interfax quoted an unnamed official at the Black Sea Fleet headquarters who said no assault was planned, adding, “This is complete nonsense.”
Sanctions may be in the near future as well with the European Union foreign ministers meeting in an emergency session in Brussels.
The ministers discussed possible punitive steps if Russia does not restrict their troops to their bases in Crimea, according to The New York Times.
However, the Times, reported that Germany and France said sanctions are not currently on the table. Instead, the countries are calling on dialogue with Russia first.
The Obama administration, however, has said that additional economic and political sanctions are “highly likely” unless Russia sends troops back to Russian bases in Crimea and agrees to dialogue with the current Ukrainian government.
“We are not just considering” additional steps, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, according to The Washington Post. “It is likely we will put [sanctions] in place. … We are preparing options and we are likely moving down that path.”
This process is apparently moving forward quite quickly.
“We are far more forward on this than we were even yesterday,” Psaki said.
Russia has yet to respond to the threatened sanctions from the EU and U.S.
On Monday, Russian forces continued to expand their control of Crimea, with the Post reporting that they took possession of a ferry terminal in the eastern part of the Crimean peninsula near Russian territory.
The Obama administration places the number of Russian troops in Crimea around 6,000, according to the Post.
President Barack Obama said the U.S. is currently looking at a series of steps, both economic and diplomatic, that would “isolate Russia.”
He called on Congress to work with his administration to produce a package of economic assistance for the current government in Kiev, according to CNN.
Secretary of State John Kerry will offer Ukraine a “specific” package of economic aid from the U.S. when he travels to Kiev on Tuesday for talks with the new government, Obama said.
Obama said that the Russian military moves in Crimea are a violation of international law.
“No country has a right to send in troops to another country unprovoked,” Obama said.
“Over time, this will be a costly proposition,” Obama said of the Russian military moves in Crimea, due to the sanctions and isolation that will result if Russian troops are not pulled back.
It is currently unclear what specific steps the U.S. and EU will take.
“Despite western countries discussing a range of punishments for Moscow, hardly anybody is pushing military action,” Fox News reports.
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