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US President Barack Obama warns his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, of further “painful economic sanctions” on his country if Moscow continues to destabilize Ukraine. |
“If Russia does not de-escalate the situation, we are united and ready to impose further painful economic sanctions,” Obama said Thursday at a joint news conference with the British Prime Minister David Cameron, after attending a Group of Seven (G7) summit in the Belgian capital, Brussels.
Putin “has a chance to get back into a lane of international law,” Obama said. But “we cannot simply allow drift,” he added.
It is the first time in two decades that Russia has not been part of the meeting of world economic powers, Obama said, adding that the move was justified because Moscow’s actions have violated international law.
Putin was excluded from what was originally planned as a G8 summit in Sochi, Russia, as part of measures to punish Moscow after the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea rejoined the Russian Federation following a referendum in March.
Obama said that the G7 countries want Russia to seize the current opportunity and engage in direct talks with the president-elect of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, in order to help settle the crisis in the east European country.
On Wednesday, the US president accused Moscow of resorting to the “dark tactics” of the 20th century in Ukraine, and vowed to counter Russian “aggression” in eastern Europe.
“The days of empire and spheres of influence are over. Bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small, or impose their will at the barrel of a gun or with masked men taking over buildings,” said Obama in a speech at the royal palace in the Polish capital, Warsaw.
In a joint statement issued Wednesday, the G7 leaders pledged their support for the Ukrainian people and government “in the face of unacceptable interference in Ukraine's sovereign affairs by the Russian Federation.”
The Russian leader has hit back at accusations that Russia is fomenting unrest in Ukraine with blunt statements of his own. Putin accused the US of hypocrisy in its “aggressive” efforts to punish Moscow for the political turmoil in Ukraine.
“We have almost no military forces abroad.... [However,] everywhere in the world there are American military bases, American troops thousands of kilometers from their borders,” said Putin on Wednesday. “They interfere in the interior affairs of this or that country. So it is difficult to accuse us of abuses.”