UK & World News
Ukraine: John Kerry Condemns Russian 'Invasion'
President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry have simultaneously condemned Russia's actions in Ukraine.
Speaking in Washington DC the President said: "There is a strong belief that Russia's action is violating international law.
"President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations.
"I don't think that's fooling anybody."
At the same time, US secretary of State John Kerry spoke at a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine.
He condemned Russia's "act of aggression", and accused Moscow of manoeuvring to push further in to the country.
Mr Kerry said Ukraine had "shown restraint despite an invasion of the Ukrainian homeland and a Russian government that has chosen aggression and intimidation as a first resort".
"The contrast really could not be clearer: determined Ukrainians demonstrating strength through unity - and a Russian government out of excuses, hiding its hand behind falsehoods, intimidation and provocations," he said.
"I think that it is clear that Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further.
"In the hearts of Ukrainians and the eyes of the world there is nothing strong about what Russia is doing."
Mr Kerry flew to Ukraine on Tuesday in a show of support for the country's new government.
He visited the capital's Independence Square to pay his respects to the dozens of protesters who died in clashes between anti-government demonstrators and police there.
The Secretary of State laid a bouquet of red roses and made the sign of the cross as he walked and talked with Ukrainians who had come to greet him.
Reflecting on his visit during his news conference, Mr Kerry said it was "remarkable to see the barricades, the barbed wire, the bullet holes and the extraordinary number of flowers ... and the photographs of those who lost their lives - the people who put themselves on the line for the future of Ukraine".
"These brave Ukrainians took to the streets in order to stand peacefully against tyranny and demand democracy," he said.
"What they stood for bravely, I say with full conviction, will never be stolen by bullets or by invasions, it cannot be silenced by thugs from rooftops, it is universal, it is unmistakable and it is called freedom."
Describing the experience as "incredibly moving", he called on Russia to return its troops to their barracks after escalating tensions in the Crimea region of the country.
He warned: "If Russia does not choose to de-escalate and work directly with the government of the Ukraine then our partners will have absolutely no choice but to join us to continue to expand upon steps we have taken in recent days in order to isolate Russia politically, diplomatically and economically."
The US announced a $1bn energy subsidy package for Ukraine, aimed at helping the country reduce its dependence on Russia for much of its natural gas.
America also promised training for financial and election institutions, and help with anti-corruption efforts.
The US administration confirmed it was also considering levying unspecified sanctions against Russia as early as this week.
US officials have already cancelled a delegation to the winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, suspended preparations for the G8 summit to be held in Sochi this summer, and postponed bilateral trade discussions with Moscow.
Speaking at a press conference earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Russia had a right to send troops in to Ukraine to protect compatriots and Russians living in "terror", but that he would use force as a last resort.
He said: "There can be only one assessment of what happened in Kiev, in Ukraine in general.
"This was an unconstitutional coup and the armed seizure of power. No one argues with this. Who can argue with it?"
President Putin repeated the accusation that the US is encouraging anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine.
He said: "This is not the first time our western partners are doing this in Ukraine.
"Sometimes I get the impression that across the pond, somewhere in America, staff at some laboratory are sitting there conducting experiments, like on rats, without understanding the consequences of what they are doing."
NATO officials have confirmed Russia has agreed to meet with its representatives on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.
Elsewhere, the UN Security Council was the scene of some angry exchanges during an emergency meeting called by Russia.
The US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power accused her Russian counterpart of "fantasy" and said Moscow's claim citizens were being persecuted in Ukraine because of links with Russia had no merit.
Earlier this week the Pentagon announced it was suspending military relations with Russia.
EU leaders are also considering possible sanctions.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian and Russian ministers started high-level talks in an effort to end the political crisis through peaceful means.
The move was announced by Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who warned Russian actions in Crimea threatened to destabilise the southern Ukrainian region and urged Mr Putin to withdraw his forces.
A tense confrontation erupted earlier when Ukrainian soldiers marched on Belbek airbase in Sevastopol.
Russian soldiers fired gunshots into the air in a warning to the approaching troops and threatening language was exchanged by both sides.
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