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Obama Opposes Crimea Referendum, Orders Sanctions

Obama Opposes Crimea Referendum, Orders Sanctionsi
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Cindy Saine
March 07, 2014 1:50 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday took a strong stand against a planned referendum on the future of Ukraine's Crimea region. As VOA’s Cindy Saine reports, congressional leaders are pledging support for those sanctions, and for the people of Ukraine.
Cindy Saine
U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday took a strong stand against a planned referendum on the future of Ukraine's Crimea region.  Obama imposed financial sanctions and travel restrictions on those the U.S. accuses of undermining democracy in Ukraine, even as thousands of Russian troops remained inside Crimea.

Congressional leaders are pledging support for those sanctions, and for the people of Ukraine.

The White House says President Obama has told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that Moscow's actions in Ukraine are a violation of that country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Officials say the two leaders spoke for an hour on the telephone Thursday. It is their first known direct contact since Saturday, shortly after Russian forces took control in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

Meanwhile, as a crowd of Russian sympathizers stood in support, lawmakers in the Crimean parliament voted to hold a referendum later this month on whether Crimea should leave Ukraine and become part of Russia.  

At the White House, President Barack Obama said the U.S. considers that referendum illegal:

"The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law. Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine," said President Obama.

The tense stand-off continues in the Crimea.  Russian soldiers surround a military base in the mountains, with Ukrainian soldiers hunkered down inside.

And in Washington, President Obama said the United States is determined to work with its European Union allies to ensure that Russia pays a price for its intervention.

"This morning I signed an executive order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entitites responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people," said Obama.

The order is aimed at Russian officials as well as Ukrainians, stopping them from transfering wealth out of the U.S.  It also cancels or denies their U.S. visas, although no targeted individuals are named.

The president called for Congress to take action and Republican House Speaker John Boehner welcomed the new sanctions.

"I support limited sanctions outlined by the president today to freeze some assets and block U.S. visas. It is a welcome first step, but we remain committed to working with the administration to give President Obama as many tools as needed to put President Putin in check and prevent Russia from infringing on the sovereignty of any of its neighbors," said Boehner.

Late Thursday,  the U.S. House of Representatives voted to provide loan guarantees of $1 billion to Ukraine.  It's a fraction of the Ukrainian government's request, but the first tangible congressional action, and awaits Senate approval.

On the Senate side, Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez lent his support to President Obama.

"President Putin’s game of Russian roulette has pointed the gun at the international community’s head. I believe this time he has miscalculated, and I certainly believe that we should not blink," said Menendez.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Rome Thursday.  Lavrov said afterwards that there is still no agreement to end the crisis.  And still, scenes like this one play out in an eastern Ukranian city where police cleared pro-Russian protestors from a regional government building they had occupied.

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by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
March 07, 2014 3:59 AM
Fear grape hold of Ukraine, as Mr. Putin does whatever he wants. There have to be law for people like Mr. Putin, and not just for the African leaders. Moreover this man has challenge the the UN governing body, And he should be brought to justice. We are in the 21ist century, such a behaviour cannot be tolerated. Mr. Putin needs to be put in check. He must be stop

by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
March 07, 2014 2:00 AM
Mr. Putin has violated international law and should be brought to justice. He has hijack the UN, EU and America. not only Ukraine. Russia knows exactly what she is doing, She is side tracking the attention from Iran and focusing it on her, why Iran is building a nuclear bomb. To be on the UN security council means that you have the responsibility to bring about peace, security and safety to the world. You cannot make the laws and break it at the same time. you make yourself a transgressor. and that is what Russia has done. Mr. Putin has crossed his own redline. He should be ashamed of himself. We are calling on the international community to stand firm on their words. Mr. Putin needs to back down and back off Crimea.
In Response

by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
March 07, 2014 11:35 PM
Brother Godwin my thing is this, the voice of the people needs to be heard. I know you are a Bible believing friend, read Ps 93, Ezek 38 and 39, Russia is the key figure for that battle. it is the Ezek 38 and 39 battle lining up, and Russia is plays an important role in that battle. Crimea is part of Ukraine not Russia, they have been flying the Ukrainian flag since their independant. I think Russia needs to respect the voice of the Ukrainian people. We disagree on this Brother Godwin, Be we are still friends God Blessyou
In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
March 07, 2014 8:54 AM
Hey Padmore, be sure of what you are talking about. If Russia violates any charter by supporting Crimean self determination decision, what is the new world order for democracy? Is it what has happened in Kiev - to sack a democratic government by mob action? Who is democratic and who should be castigated here, Russia or the West? Russia is supporting democracy while the West is siding with jungle justice, do you support a reversal to the Middle Ages and Dark Ages type of power play? Haba Leroy, this is not like you speaking. Even if Russia has always been identified with wrongdoing in the past, it's position is not wrong this time around. Let us be resolute is condemning evil, for what goes round comes round. If error is to be corrected, let the illegal sacking of Viktor Yanukovych be first reversed, then there will be no interference in Crimea.

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