Unidentified gunmen guard Ukraine's infantry base in Privolnoye, Ukraine, on Sunday.

Unidentified gunmen guard Ukraine's infantry base in Privolnoye, Ukraine, on Sunday. AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

Heading Off Russian Invasion, Kerry to Visit Ukraine on Tuesday

Calling Putin a ‘tyrant’ whose actions reflect ‘19th century behavior in the 21st century,’ Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Kiev. By Stephanie Gaskell

Calling Russia’s actions in Ukraine ‘19th century behavior in the 21st century,” Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kiev on Tuesday to try to head off invading Russian forces and de-escalate the conflict.

Kerry is scheduled to meet with Ukraine’s new government, members of parliament and civilian leaders who have declared Russia’s aggression as an act of war. Repeating a White House warning from Saturday, Kerry called for isolating Russia if it doesn’t pull back from the eastern region of Crimea, where thousands of Russian-backed troops have arrived at Russian bases there and called for Ukrainian forces to surrender, according to CNN.

“This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century, and there is no way, to start with, that if Russia persists in this, that the G-8 countries are going to assemble in Sochi. That’s a starter,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“But there’s much more than that,” he said. “Russia has major investment and trade needs and desires. I think there’s a unified view by all of the foreign ministers I talked with yesterday, all of the G-8 and more, that they’re simply going to isolate Russia, that they’re not going to engage with Russia in a normal business-as-usual manner, that Russia is inviting opprobrium on the international stage. There could even be, ultimately, asset freezes, visa bans. There could be certainly disruption of any of the normal trade routine. There could be business drawback on investment in the country. The ruble is already going down and feeling the impact of this.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel repeated his appeal for calm. "This is a time for careful, wise, steady leadership," Hagel said on CBS’s "Face the Nation.” “The tensions increase and I think all nations have to be very careful here of not promoting any more tension through provocative action."

On Sunday, NATO held meetings of its North Atlantic Council and with the NATO-Ukraine Commission. “What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the United Nations Charter,” NATO Secretary-General Ander Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement before the meeting. “It threatens peace and security in Europe. Russia must stop its military activities and threats.”

President Barack Obama on Saturday called Russian President Vladmir Putin to warn him against intervening in Ukraine, where months of protests over the government of President Viktor Yanukovych turned into violent riots last month that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded. Yanukovych was ousted on Feb. 22 and fled to Russia.

Kerry said the U.S. wants a diplomatic solution. “The last thing anybody wants is a military option in this kind of a situation. We want a peaceful resolution through the normal processes of international relations,” he said.

“Let me make it clear,” he told NBC. “The people of Ukraine are fighting for democracy, they’re fighting for freedom, they’re fighting to have their voices heard and not be governed by a kleptocracy, by a tyrant, by someone who puts their political opposition in jail, somebody who robs the country of its livelihood and future. And they spoke out against snipers from roofs who were killing them; they kept on marching and fought for their freedom. Now they have the opportunity for that democracy.”