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Search Tags: Ukraine
President Barack Obama says the U.S. is limited in what it can do to deter Russia's actions in Ukraine because Russia and President Vladimir Putin are ignoring their long-term interests. He says, "people don't always act rationally," and he also says that people don't act based on their own interests.
The United States has imposed new sanctions on lucrative Russian energy and defense entities, as well as major banks. The Obama administration is trying disable an insurgency in eastern Ukraine widely believed to be backed by Moscow. Prior U.S. sanctions hit Russian individuals and companies. The new sanctions stop short of fully cutting off key Russian economic sectors.
What's next in Ukraine? A 10-day ceasefire in eastern Ukraine expired Monday night, with no immediate word from the country's president on whether he would extend it, and no sign that the pro-Moscow separatists had met his demands to ease the violence. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko discussed the situation in a phone call with leaders of Russia, Germany and France. He repeatedly said the rebels had not fulfilled the conditions of the ceasefire.
The Obama administration is expressing new concerns about rising violence in eastern Ukraine, including the downing of a military helicopter by pro-Russian rebels battling the government. The White House on Thursday called on Russia to exert pressure on the separatists to get them to end the fighting and release international monitors detained in eastern Ukraine since earlier this week.
The Pentagon says Russia is not withdrawing its troops from the Ukraine border, despite Moscow's claim that the order to pull out has been given. Rear Adm. John Kirby says small numbers of Russian troops have gone back and forth to forward operating bases near the border, but the U.S. has seen no movement of Russian troops back to their home bases. NATO says Russia has 40,000 troops along the border.
The Pentagon says if Russian troops were really pulling back from the border with Ukraine, then "we would know," a spokesman told the Associated Press. He says that doesn't seem to be happening. Russian President Vladimir Putin says his troops have been moved away from the border region. Putin has also called on Ukraine's military to stop its operations against pro-Russia activists who have seized government buildings and police stations in at least a dozen towns in eastern Ukraine.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke Monday by phone with Russia's Minister of Defense. The two leaders discussed a wide range of issues related to the situation in Ukraine, with Sec. Hagel requesting clarification of Russia's intentions in Eastern Ukraine. Sergei Shoygu reiterated his assurance that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine. Sec. Hagel emphasized how dangerous the situation remains and expressed his desire to find a responsible way forward. Regarding recent actions by Ukrainian security forces, Sec. Hagel reiterated the right of the government of Ukraine to preserve law and order within its own borders.
Russian fighter jets flew into Ukraine several times last week. It's not clear what the intent was, but the aircraft may have been testing Ukrainian radar. The West has threatened additional sanctions against Russia if it continues its aggressive behavior in Ukraine.
The Pentagon sharply criticized Russia's latest announcement on Thursday, the Associated Press reports. DoD is concerned that Russia is, "starting military drills near the border with Ukraine and called on Moscow to take steps to lower, not escalate, tensions. Moscow has said the drills were a response to Ukrainian operations against pro-Russian separatists and NATO exercises in eastern Europe."
The U.S. is planning to send medical supplies, helmets and other non-lethal aid to the Ukrainian military in response to Russia's aggressive activities, which the U.S. says are designed to destabilize that country. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said at a news conference that he spoke to Ukraine's acting defense minister to tell him that President Barack Obama had approved the assistance. But, he pointed out, the aid doesn't include any weapons.