A day after the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly in support of being annexed by Russia, President Barack Obama on Monday delivered a message in support of Ukrainian sovereignty and for NATO allies concerned about the emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine, Monday, March 17, 2014, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington. The president imposed sanctions against Russian officials, including advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for their support of Crimea's vote to secede from Ukraine. (AP/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The White House earlier Monday announced sanctions on Russian officials, and Obama said further restrictions would occur if Russia continues to interfere with Ukraine. The European Union also announced its own sanctions on Russia.
Vice President Joe Biden is traveling to Europe Monday to meet with leaders of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Obama said he will travel to Europe next week.
“We’ll continue to make clear to Russia that further provocation will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world,” Obama said. “The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. And continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy.”
Obama vowed to “stand firm in our unwavering support for Ukraine” but stressed there should be a diplomatic solution.
“I believe there is a path to resolve this situation diplomatically in a way that addresses both Russia and Ukraine,” Obama said. “That includes Russia pulling its forces in Crimea back to their bases, supporting the deployment of additional international monitors in Ukraine, and engaging in dialogue with the Ukrainian government, which has indicated its openness to pursuing constitutional reform as they move forward to elections this spring.”
Obama urged both the international community and Congress to step up and offer Ukraine financial support.
“The United States stands with the people of Ukraine and their right to determine their own destiny,” Obama said. “We’re going to keep working with Congress and our international partners to offer Ukraine the economic support that it needs to weather this crisis and to improve the daily lives of the Ukrainian people.”