Washington, DC – President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called their Russian counterparts today to express their concerns over recent events in Ukraine, according to White House and Defense Department news releases issued today.
Obama spoke for 90 minutes this afternoon with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine, according to the White House release.
Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the U.N. Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and which is inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act. The United States condemns Russia’s military intervention into Ukrainian territory, the White House release said.
Hagel spoke by phone with Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu this morning, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in the DOD news release.
“Secretary Hagel expressed deep concern about Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine,” Kirby said in the DOD release. “He reminded Minister Shoygu that these activities ran counter to Russia’s international treaty obligations and stated position that it would respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Following a Ukrainian pro-democracy coalition’s recent ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian government, the Russian military has been reported to be operating in and around the Crimea region in southeastern Ukraine, where the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet has its principal base in Sevastopol on the Black Sea. The Crimea region is home to an ethic-Russian majority populace.
In the DOD release, Kirby noted that “Hagel stressed that, without a change on the ground, Russia risks further instability in the region, isolation in the international community and an escalation that would threaten European and international security.”
The United States calls on Russia to de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine, the White House release said.
“We have consistently said that we recognize Russia’s deep historic and cultural ties to Ukraine and the need to protect the rights of ethnic Russian and minority populations within Ukraine,” the White House release said. “The Ukrainian government has made clear its commitment to protect the rights of all Ukrainians and to abide by Ukraine’s international commitments, and we will continue to urge them to do so.”
Obama also told Putin today that if Russia has concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russian and minority populations in Ukraine, the appropriate way to address them is peacefully through direct engagement with the government of Ukraine and through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the White House release said.
As a member of both organizations, Russia would be able to participate, the White House release added.
Obama urged an immediate effort to initiate a dialogue between Russia and the Ukrainian government, the White House release said, with international facilitation, as appropriate. The United States is prepared to participate.
Obama made clear that Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community, the White House release said. In the coming hours and days, the release said, the United States will urgently consult with allies and partners in the UN Security Council, the North Atlantic Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum.
The United States will suspend upcoming participation in preparatory meetings for the G-8, according to the White House release. Going forward, the release said, Russia’s continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.
The people of Ukraine have the right to determine their own future, the White House release said, and Obama has directed his administration to continue working urgently with international partners to provide support for the Ukrainian government, including urgent technical and financial assistance.
“Going forward,” the White House release said, “we will continue consulting closely with allies and partners, the Ukrainian government and the International Monetary Fund, to provide the new [Ukrainian] government with significant assistance to secure financial stability, to support needed reforms, to allow Ukraine to conduct successful elections, and to support Ukraine as it pursues a democratic future.”
Also, Obama spoke separately today with President Francois Hollande of France and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, according to another White House release issued today.
The leaders, that release said, agreed that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, and they expressed their grave concern over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.
The leaders agreed to continue to coordinate closely, including bilaterally, and through appropriate international organizations, the release continued, and the leaders also affirmed the importance of unity within the international community in support of international law, and the future of Ukraine and its democracy.
The leaders also pledged to work together on a package of support and assistance to help Ukraine as it pursues reforms and stabilizes its economy, the White House release added.
Obama had issued a statement on the situation in the Ukraine on Feb. 28. In it, the president noted that he’d spoken “several days ago with President Putin, and my administration has been in daily communication with Russian officials, and we’ve made clear that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of The people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.
“However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine,” Obama continued in his Feb. 28 statement. “Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties, and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe.
“It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people,” Obama added. “It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws. And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”