Kerry: ‘Nothing Strong About What Russia is Doing’

Photograph by Yury Kirnichny/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry, center, Oleksandr Turchynov, Parliament Speaker and Ukraine’s interim President, left, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev on March 4, 2014.

Secretary of State John Kerry has seen the barriers, the barbed wire and the bullet holes in the Kiev square where government forces fired on protesters — “people who put themselves on the line for the future of Ukraine.”

“It gave me a deep personal sense of how closely linked the people of Ukraine are to not only Americans but to people across the world who are today asking for their rights,” Kerry said in a public statement in Ukraine this evening  there. “That’s what this is about.”

What they stood for “cannot be silenced by thugs from roof-tops,” he said. “It is universal, it is called freedom.”

In Washington today, President Barack Obama said: `We’re prepared to ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are upheld.” Pointing to Russian troops in Crimea, he said, Moscow “is seeking through force” to influence a neighbor.

`I actually think that this has not been a sign of strength, but that countries near Russia” are concerned and suspicious about “this kind of meddling,” Obama said, and this will “push those countries away.”

In another part of Ukraine today, Kerry said in Kiev, the Russian federation’s “act of aggression’‘ threatens the new order. “We all greatly admire the restraint the transitional government has shown… despite an invasion of Ukrainian homeland,” he said. “The Russian government has chosen invasion and intimidation as a first resort.”

“In the hearts of Ukrainians and the eyes of the world, there is nothing strong about what Russia is doing,” Kerry said.

The Obama administration’s emissary arrived in Kiev today with a pledge of $1 billion in aid for the new government.

“The larger point is really this: It is diplomacy and respect for sovereignty, not unilateral force, that can best solve disputes like this in the 21st Century,” Kerry said. “We are not seeking confrontation. There is a better way for Russia to pursue its genuine interests in Ukraine.”

The U.S., Ukraine and the European community are asking for large numbers of observers, he said. “I come here today at the instruction of President Obama to make it absolutely clear the United States of America would prefer to see this de-escalated.”

If Russia “is not willing to work directly with the government of Ukraine,” he said, “then our partners will have absolutely no choice” but to increase steps being taken “to isolate Russia.”

“This is not something we are choosing to do — this is something Russia is forcing to do,” said Kerry, calling on Russia “to return its forces to the barracks.”

”This is the 21st Century,” Kerry said, not a time for nations to engage in 19th Century behavior.

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