Secretary of State John Kerry is not pleased with what Russia is doing in Ukraine. And in a statement Thursday night, he made his displeasure clear.
Russia, Kerry said, is not keeping its word. “Having failed to halt a legitimate political process,” he said, “Russia has instead chosen an illegitimate, coercive armed violence to try to achieve—with the barrel of a gun and the force of the mob—what could not be achieved any other way.”
The Geneva agreement reached one week ago between representatives of Russia, the United States, Ukraine, and the European Union had four major points. It said that all sides must refrain from violence; that illegally armed groups in Ukraine have to give up their weapons; that government buildings inside Ukraine’s border that had been seized by pro-Russian forces had to be returned to Ukrainian control; and that protesters who comply with these demands would be granted amnesty so long as they did not commit capital crimes.
“The Geneva agreement is not open to interpretation,” Kerry said Thursday night. “It is not vague, it is not subjective, it is not optional.”
“For seven days,” he later said, “Russia has refused to take a single concrete step in the right direction.”
“The window to change course is closing,” Kerry said. And the United States is “ready to act.”
Kerry revealed Thursday that U.S. intelligence has found that Russia’s “intelligence services and special operators and military intelligence are playing an active role in destabilizing eastern Ukraine with personnel.”
“If Russia continues in this direction, it will not just be a grave mistake,” Kerry said. “It will be an expensive mistake.” It’s not clear right now how the U.S. would go about fulfilling that promise.
Earlier Thursday, President Obama said that new economic sanctions on Russia were “teed up,” but that he understands that “additional sanctions may not change Mr. Putin’s calculus.”
Regardless of the sanctions’ possible utility, Ukraine definitely is hoping for another hit from the United States. “We have to do everything possible to stop the aggression,” Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkvisky said Thursday, in a plea to the U.S. and Europe to enact more sanctions.
Meanwhile, the situation in Ukraine is getting increasingly tense. Russia is beginning new military exercises on its side of the border with Ukraine, and as many as five pro-Russian activists were reportedly killed in eastern Ukraine Thursday.
Russia, predictably, isn’t taking the reported deaths lightly. “If the Kiev regime has started to use the army against the population inside the country, it, beyond any doubt, is a very serious crime,” President Vladimir Putin said at a media forum Thursday.
And Russia isn’t the only country trying to send a signal with military exercises in the area right now. A contingent of U.S. troops landed in Poland this week for military exercises of its own.