By Jueseppi B.
Statement by the President on Ukraine
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:05 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Before Jay takes some of your questions, I wanted to provide a brief update on our efforts to address the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Since the Russian intervention, we’ve been mobilizing the international community to condemn this violation of international law and to support the people and government of Ukraine.
This morning I signed an executive order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people.
According to my guidance, the State Department has also put in place restrictions on the travel of certain individuals and officials. These decisions continue our efforts to impose a cost on Russia and those responsible for the situation in Crimea. And they also give us the flexibility to adjust our response going forward based on Russia’s actions.
We took these steps in close coordination with our European allies. I’ve spoken to several of our closest friends around the world, and I’m pleased that our international unity is on display at this important moment. Already, we’ve moved together to announced substantial assistance for the government in Kyiv, and today in Brussels, our allies took similar steps to impose costs on Russia. I am confident that we are moving forward together, united in our determination to oppose actions that violate international law and to support the government and people of Ukraine.
And that includes standing up for the principle of state sovereignty. The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law. Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine. In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.
While we take these steps, I want to be clear that there is also a way to resolve this crisis that respects the interests of the Russian Federation, as well as the Ukrainian people. Let international monitors into all of Ukraine, including Crimea, to ensure the rights of all Ukrainians are being respected, including ethnic Russians. Begin consultations between the government of Russia and Ukraine, with the participation of the international community. Russia would maintain its basing rights in Crimea, provided that it abides by its agreements and respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. And the world should support the people of Ukraine as they move to elections in May.
That’s the path of de-escalation, and Secretary Kerry is engaged in discussions with all of the relevant parties, including Russia and Ukraine to pursue that path. But if this violation of international law continues, the resolve of the United States, and our allies and the international community will remain firm. Meanwhile, we’ve taken steps to reaffirm our commitment to the security and democracy of our allies in Eastern Europe and to support the people of Ukraine.
One last point — there’s been a lot of talk in Congress about these issues. Today, once again, I’m calling on Congress to follow up on these words with action, specifically to support the IMF’s capacity to lend resources to Ukraine and to provide American assistance for the Ukrainian government so that they can weather this storm and stabilize their economy, make needed reforms, deliver for their people, all of which will provide a smoother pathway for the elections that have already been scheduled in May.
Today the world can see that the United States is united with our allies and partners in upholding international law and pursuing a just outcome that advances global security and the future that the Ukrainian people deserve. That’s what we’re going to continue to do in the days to come until we have seen a resolution to this crisis.
Thanks very much. And Jay and Ben and others will be happy to take your questions.
1:10 P.M. EST
Readout of the Vice President’s Call with Latvian President Andris Berzins
In a telephone call earlier today, Vice President Biden and Latvian President Andris Berzins expressed their grave concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and discussed how best to bring about a peaceful resolution. The Vice President reaffirmed the United States’ longstanding and continuing commitment to peace and security in the Baltic region.
Readout of the President’s Call with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom
As part of our continuing close consultations on shared security challenges, the President spoke to Prime Minister Cameron today regarding the events unfolding in Ukraine The leaders expressed their grave concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and both noted that the current circumstances are unacceptable. Russia has already started to pay a cost for its actions, such as reducing investor confidence in Russia. The two leaders welcomed the military observer mission being undertaken by Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at the request of the Government of Ukraine. They also discussed support for the government of Ukraine as it works to stabilize its economy and makes preparations for elections in May. The leaders agreed to stay in close contact in the days ahead.