Obama: Russia must move troops away from border with Ukraine
By End the Lie
Russia needs to move their troops away from the border with Ukraine and begin negotiations with the government in Kiev in order to de-escalate the situation, President Barack Obama said in an interview aired Friday.
Russia may have some 40,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, according to two unnamed U.S. officials cited by CNN on Thursday. The estimate was reportedly based on satellite imagery.
Yarema Dukh, the spokesman for the Ukrainian Council of National Security and Defense, said that his government estimates 88,000 Russian troops are at their border.
“You’ve seen a range of troops massing along that border under the guise of military exercises, but these are not what Russia would normally be doing,” Obama said, according to CNN. “It may simply be an effort to intimidate Ukraine, or it may be that they’ve got additional plans.”
“And, in either case, what we need right now to resolve and de-escalate the situation would be for Russia to move back those troops and to begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government as well as the international community,” Obama said in an interview with CBS This Morning.
Russian officials, however, dispute the accusations. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that foreign military inspectors support the Russian contention that nothing unusual is going on, according to Russia’s ITAR-TASS.
“Even a Ukrainian inspection group that visited the Belgorod region from March 18 to March 20 agreed that the Russian Armed Forces were not conducting any major military activity there,” Lukashevich said. “The three battalions of Airborne Troops it had found outside the zone of permanent stationing – that is, in the process of a military exercise – could scarcely be viewed as signs of a ‘menacing buildup of military muscle.’”
When Obama was asked what Putin hopes to gain from the annexation of Crimea, the president sighed and said that Putin has “a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union.”
“You would have thought that after a couple of decades that there’d be an awareness on the part of any Russian leader that the path forward is not to revert back to the kinds of practices that were so prevalent during the Cold War,” Obama said.
Obama pointed to Putin saying that he considers the breakup of the Soviet Union to be tragic. Obama added that there is a strong sense of nationalism driving Russian actions and that Putin may want to reverse or make up for his sense that the West has taken advantage of Russia, according to The Washington Post.
Russians hiding military positions, possibly positioning for prolonged incursion
The United Nations Security Council will meet Friday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine and the Russian military buildup along with what Fox News calls “Moscow’s reported efforts to camouflage troops and equipment.”
The Pentagon said that there is no indication that the Russian forces along the Ukrainian border are there for legitimate military exercises.
“We’ve seen no specific indications that these — that exercises — are taking place,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said to reporters.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Russian troops are establishing supply lines and concealing their troops.
These reported moves have raised concerns among U.S. intelligence agencies that are attempting to assess Putin’s plans.
The Russian efforts to camouflage their equipment and military forces may be part of an effort to hinder the ability of American spy satellites to assess the numbers and movements of Russian military, according to senior U.S. military officials.
The officials also told the WSJ that it may be an attempt to conceal the location and size of troops and equipment from the Ukrainian military.
Most troubling of all, however, is that a senior military official told the WSJ that the Pentagon is concerned that Russians may have additional supplies in place, including food and spare parts, which could enable either a routine military exercise or an extended incursion into Ukraine.
“They are positioning logistics. That is necessary for the exercise but could also be used for further aggression if they choose to go,” the anonymous official said. “They have in place the capability, capacity and readiness they would need should they choose to conduct further aggression.”
U.N. General Assembly declares Crimean secession referendum illegitimate
Both Obama’s comments and the Russian reaction to the accusations about their troop buildup came after the Russian government dismissed a U.N. General Assembly resolution on the Crimean referendum.
The resolution ruled Crimea’s secession referendum invalid, but Russia said the U.N.’s actions will not resolve the situation.
“The counterproductive initiative with the General Assembly’s resolution only complicates efforts to stabilize the internal political crisis in Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The General Assembly’s non-binding resolution, passed on Thursday, had 100 countries vote in favor and 11 in opposition, while 58 abstained.
The House and Senate also took major steps on the path to providing Ukraine with a $1 billion aid package from the U.S., while also making sanctions announced by Obama official.
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