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Sat., 12:29 am: Obama could pull Russia trip amid Ukraine tumult

March 1, 2014
The Associated Press , Tribune Chronicle | TribToday.com

WASHINGTON - U.S. officials said Friday that President Barack Obama may scrap plans to attend an international summit in Russia this summer and could also halt discussions on deepening trade ties with Moscow, raising specific possible consequences if Russia should intervene in Ukraine. Obama himself bluntly warned of unspecified "costs" for Russia.

"Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing," Obama declared. Such action by Russia would represent a "profound interference" in matters that must be decided by the Ukrainian people, he said.

While the president spoke only of "reports" of military movements inside Ukraine, the officials said the U.S does believe that Russia is intervening.

Separately, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he would not address specific U.S. options, "but this could be a very dangerous situation if this continues in a provocative way." Asked about options in a CBS News interview, he said that "we're trying to deal with a diplomatic focus, that's the appropriate, responsible approach."

As Obama prepared to speak late Friday, a spokesman for the Ukrainian border service said eight Russian transport planes had landed with unknown cargo in Crimea. Serhiy Astakhov told The Associated Press that the Il-76 planes arrived unexpectedly and were given permission to land, one after the other, at Gvardeiskoye air base. The State Department urged U.S. citizens to defer nonessential travel plans in the country because of "the potential for instability."

In Washington, it was unclear whether the administration's threats to pull trade talks or cancel presidential travel might have any impact on Russia's calculations. Obama canceled a bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin last year after Russia granted asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, though Obama still attended a separate international meeting in Russia.

Putin is scheduled to host the Group of Eight economic summit in June in Sochi, the site of the recently completed Winter Olympics. The U.S. is in discussions about the summit with European partners and it is difficult to see how some of those leaders would attend the summit if Russia has forces in Crimea, according to the administration officials. They were not authorized to discuss the situation by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The administration's warning that trade talks could be halted came as Russian officials were in Washington for economic discussions with Obama advisers.

 
 

 

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