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VOA Exclusive: US Envoy to UN Samantha Power Warns Russia on Ukraine

  • Margaret Besheer

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told VOA in an exclusive interview Wednesday that the United States will vigorously pursue economic isolation of Russia if it does not back down on Ukraine intervention.

"The issue is whether Russia is prepared to deescalate," she said in a television interview with VOA's Ukrainian service.

Power urged Russia to ease its military posture and embrace mediation to solve the deepening crisis. She said Russia has made a number of claims about the poor treatment of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers that Washington finds baseless.

And she urged the quick dispatch of monitors to eastern Ukraine and the Crimea to report on the situation.

“Our point to the Russians is, if you have these claims and you are saying to the international community that certain things happened, what are you afraid of?" she asked.

"Why not allow monitors in on a large-scale to offer assurance that ethnic Russians will be protected? We have been rebuffed up to this point, but we are still pushing that," she added.

Power said if Moscow does not choose this “off ramp” out of the crisis, then the United States is prepared to take steps to deepen Russia’s political and economic isolation.

“In addition to canceling preparations for the G8 meeting in Sochi, we have also canceled military engagements, as well as trade and other forms of economic, bilateral cooperation," she said.

"And we are looking at targeted sanctions that might be put in place against those that we deem responsible for this act of aggression,” she added.

Power said the future of the Ukrainian people must be decided by them and not dictated by outside forces. She also condemned the detention and forced expulsion of U.N. envoy Robert Serry from the Crimean capital on Wednesday.

The U.N. said Serry was stopped and threatened by armed men. He was on a diplomatic mission and was just leaving naval headquarters when the incident happened.

"For days now, Ukrainians in the Crimea have been subjected to intimidation and threats very much along the lines that Mr. Serry faced today on his visit," she said. "This harassment and this intimidation is unacceptable and it is why the international community has expressed its outrage and grave concern over developments in the Ukraine.”

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, in Kyiv to meet with various parties, told U.N. reporters by telephone that a group of between 10 and 15 men, some armed and wearing fatigues, stopped Serry's vehicle and told him to leave Crimea. Eliasson said Serry was unharmed but that he felt threatened.

The U.N. said Serry planned to take a late night flight out of Simferopol to Kyiv, where he will continue his mission. A senior U.N. human rights official also is being dispatched to Kyiv at the end of the week to monitor the human rights situation on the ground.