Secretary of State John Kerry issued a stern warning to Russia Thursday evening to take concrete measures to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine or face further sanctions.
"If Russia continues in this direction, it won’t just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake,” Kerry said in a briefing. "The window to change course is closing."
Taking a firm stance against Russia’s lack of implementation of measures agreed upon last week in a meeting between interested parties in Geneva, Kerry called it a “full-throated effort to actively sabotage the democratic process.”
“Russia is stoking the very instability that they say they want to quell,” he added.
Kerry praised the Ukrainian government for taking immediate action to improve security and find political solutions to the crisis threatening that country’s sovereignty.
But he emphasized that unless both sides refrain from violence, intimidation and other provocative actions, the crisis will only escalate.
Kerry also accused Russia of making outrageous claims –- such as stating that armed forces occupying official buildings in eastern Ukraine are merely local activists exercising legitimate rights –- while funding and fueling the separatist movement.
“You can’t resolve a crisis when only one side is willing to do what is necessary to solve a confrontation,” Kerry said.
“Russia has put its faith in distraction, deception and destabilization.”
Closing his statement, Kerry said Russian President Vladimir Putin faces two choices: either Russia de-escalates its actions in Ukraine, a move the world would welcome, or it will face swift action.
"President Putin and Russia face a choice. If Russia chooses the path of de-escalation, the international community, all of us, will welcome it," he said. "If Russia does not, the world will make sure that the costs for Russia will only grow. And as President Obama reiterated earlier today, we are ready to act."
First published April 24 2014, 3:39 PM