US President Barack Obama says Washington does not recognize “what is happening in Crimea”, adding that Crimea remains a part of Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Obama called on Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine or face the consequences of more sanctions if it moves deeper into the country, warning Russian President Vladimir Putin that that would be “a bad choice”.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum a day earlier, in which nearly 97 percent of the participants voted in favor of the move.
On March 21, Putin signed into law the documents officially making Crimea part of the Russian territory. He said the move was carried out based on the international law.
“We’re not recognizing what is happening in Crimea,” Obama said, adding that the US rejected the “notion that a referendum sloppily organized over the course of two weeks” would “be a valid process” and stressed Crimea remains a part of Ukraine.
Obama, who was talking to journalists after a 53-nation nuclear-security summit in The Hague, the Netherlands, said he didn’t think international recognition of Crimea as part of Russia is “a done deal.”
But he also said, “It would be dishonest to suggest there is a simple solution to what has already taken place in Crimea.”
“We also are concerned about further encroachment by Russia into Ukraine,” Obama said.
“I think that will be a bad choice for President Putin to make,” he said. “But ultimately he is the president of Russia, and he’s the one who’s going to be making that decision.”
In a speech to the Russian parliament on March 17, Putin defended Crimea’s referendum as democratic and legal, saying the region is an inseparable part of Russia.
The Russian leader criticized the US and its allies for what he called hypocrisy, saying they had endorsed Kosovo’s independence in a referendum from Serbia but now denied the people of Crimea the same right. “You cannot call the same thing black today and white tomorrow.”
Obama rejected Putin’s statement that Russian speakers had been threatened in Crimea and in Ukraine. “There has been no evidence that Russian speakers have been in any way threatened.”
“When I hear analogies to Kosovo, where you had thousands of people who were being slaughtered by their government, it’s a comparison that makes absolutely no sense,” Obama said.
“I think it is important for everybody to be clear and strip away some of the possible excuses for potential Russian action,” Obama said, the day after the US and its allies ousted Russia from the Group of Eight (G8) over the crisis in Ukraine and the status of Crimea.
In 1998, the group of industrialized nations known as the G7 — the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy — added Russia to its fold, transforming it from the G7 to the G8.
On Monday, the G7 threatened to step up its measures against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.
In a statement issued after crisis talks in The Hague, the G7 members said they are ready to intensify coordinated sanctions against Moscow. They also called on Russia to immediately de-escalate the situation.
The G7 has snubbed a planned meeting that Putin was due to host in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in June, saying the group will hold a meeting in Brussels without Russia instead of the wider G8 summit.
Recently, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland disclosed that Washington has “invested” about $5 billion in “promoting democracy” in Ukraine over the past two decades.
In early February, Nuland visited Ukraine and held meetings with anti-Kremlin politicians who organized anti-government protests that led to the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych, the country’s democratically-elected president.