The Obama administration on Monday sharply condemned calls by pro-Russian groups acting in eastern Ukraine for Moscow to extend their annexation of parts of the country beyond Crimea
WASHINGTON D.C. – The Obama administration on Monday sharply condemned calls by pro-Russian groups acting in eastern Ukraine for Moscow to extend their annexation of parts of the country beyond Crimea.
Demonstrators who call themselves the People’s Republic of Donetsk seized a regional administrative headquarters in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Sunday. They called for a referendum on joining Russia on May 11.
Similar protests erupted in Kharkiv and Luhansk, both in eastern Ukraine, over the weekend.
Relations between the western allies and Russia have been tense since Russia intervened with military forces and, after a local referendum, officially annexed Crimea, a semi-autonomous region of Ukraine, on March 21.
“If Russia moves into Eastern Ukraine, either overtly or covertly, this would be a very serious escalation,” said Jay Carney, White House press secretary, while speaking to reporters Monday. “We call on President Putin and his government to cease all efforts to destabilize Ukraine and we caution against further military intervention.”
At least some of those demonstrators may have been paid non-local residents, according to Carney. “And I think that at least suggests that outside forces, not local forces, were participating in the effort to create these provocations,” he added.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov on Monday following the demonstrations. During the call Kerry asserted the protests did not appear to be spontaneous, and may have had Russian support, said Jen Psaki, State Department spokesperson while speaking to reporters Monday.
“He [Kerry] made clear that any further Russian effort to destabilize Ukraine will incur further costs for Russia,” Psaki said.
Carney added, “There could be further costs coming as a result of the actions that Russia has already taken. And there will certainly be more costs if Russia takes further action.”
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