The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 3, 2014

Obama: Russia 'on the wrong side of history'

— WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Monday accused Russia of being "on the wrong side of history" with its military intervention in Ukraine and said he's examining diplomatic and economic steps to isolate Moscow.

Obama said Russia has violated Ukraine's sovereignty and international law, and he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to change course.

"Over time this will be a costly proposition for Russia and now's the time for them to consider whether they can serve their interests in a way that resorts to diplomacy as opposed to force," Obama said from the Oval Office. He spoke at the start of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Earlier Monday, a Ukrainian military spokesman said Russia had issued an ultimatum to the crews of two Ukrainian warships in Crimea, demanding that they immediately surrender or be stormed and seized. Vladimir Anikin, a Russian defense ministry spokesman in Moscow, dismissed that report as nonsense, but he refused to elaborate.

Secretary of State John Kerry was leaving for Ukraine late Monday and then will travel to France and Italy. He had planned to see his Russian counterpart in Paris, but a spokeswoman said that meeting was no longer certain.

The spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said any Russian threat to Ukraine's navy would be a "dangerous escalation" of an extremely tense situation, although she said she could not confirm if Russia had in fact made such threats. She said Washington would hold Moscow accountable for such an escalation but did not elaborate on potential consequences.

The U.S. and its allies are weighing sanctions on Moscow, in what amounts to a sudden reprise of Cold War sensibilities. One consideration is whether to bolster defenses in Europe in response to Russia's military advances on Ukraine.

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