Ukraine Crisis

Kerry Denounces Russian ‘Act of Aggression’, Warns of Trade Freeze

Image: Secretary of State John Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during release of the annual Human Rights Report on February 27, 2014 in the State Department briefing room in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images MANDEL NGAN / AFP - Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the Russian movement of troops into Ukraine Sunday as “an act of aggression” and accused President Vladimir Putin of “possibly trying to annex Crimea.”

“He's going to lose on the international stage, Russia is going to lose, the Russian people are going to lose, and he's going to lose all of the glow that came out of the Olympics, his $60 billion extravaganza,” Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

He warned that Russia will suffer a loss of trade and investment if Putin does not reverse course.

Russia has “major investment and trade needs” which are bound to suffer if Russian troops don’t leave Ukraine, he said. “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…. The ruble is already going down and feeling the impact of this,” he said.

Kerry: Russia's 'Act of Aggression' 1:45

He also warned that “there could even be ultimately asset freezes,” but did not specify how long it would take for foreign governments and banking authorities to freeze Russian assets held abroad.

He also threatened bans on issuing visas to Russians seeking to travel to Europe, the United States and other countries.

Kerry did not specifically address the dependence of European countries on natural gas that Russia exports to them and whether that trade might be interrupted by the crisis over Ukraine.

“It’s really 19th century behavior in the twenty-first century,” Kerry said of Putin ordering Russian military forces to move into Ukraine.

“You just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests,” he said.

“There are plenty of ways to protect Russian-speaking people in Crimea,” he said, adding that President Barack Obama had offered U.S. mediation between Russia and Ukraine in his 90-mnutes phone call with Putin on Saturday. Kerry said in a written statement Sunday that the United States does “respect Russia's ties to Ukraine and its concerns about treatment of ethnic Russians.”

Ukraine mobilized its military forces Sunday after Putin declared Russia had a right to invade. The Russian incursion into the Ukrainian province of Crimea, the peninsula where Russia leases a naval base, came after repeated warnings from Obama and officials in his administration to not use military force.