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Obama: Crimea Referendum Would Violate International Law

<p>The president's remarks come as the United States announced visa restrictions and sanctions against officials involved in the conflict.</p>
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President Barack Obama said Thursday that there is a "path to de-escalation" for the crisis in Ukraine but that the United States and the international community believes that borders cannot "be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders."

"The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law," he said in remarks in the White House. "Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine. In 2014 we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders."

Obama said that the United States is working closely with European allies to address the conflict.

"I am confident that we are moving forward together, united in our determination to oppose actions that violate international law and to support the government and people of Ukraine," he said.

And he called for Congress to "follow up words with action" and support the International Monetary Fund in offering additional resources to Ukraine.

The comments come after the United States announced that it has imposed visa restrictions and other sanctions on officials “responsible for or complicit in threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

In a statement Thursday morning, White House press secretary Jay Carney called that executive order "a flexible tool that will allow us to sanction those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea, and does not preclude further steps should the situation deteriorate."

Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov for a second day Thursday as the two countries work to address the crisis.