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Obama says Russia’s not abiding by agreement on Ukraine

Pro-Russian activists with Russian flag sitting barricade regional administratibuilding Donetsk Ukraine Wednesday April 23 2014.    Pro-Russian gunmen

Pro-Russian activists with Russian flag sitting at a barricade at the regional administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine said on Wednesday that they are holding captive American journalist with Vice News Simon Ostrovsky who has not been seen since early Tuesday April 22. Ostrovsky has been covering the crisis in Ukraine for some weeks and was reporting about groups of masked gunmen seizing government buildings in eastern Ukrainian. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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Updated: April 24, 2014 12:29AM



TOKYO — Warning Russia that new economic sanctions are “teed up,” President Barack Obama accused Moscow of failing to live up to an agreement last week to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine.

Still, he cautioned that the United States needs to secure the support of allies to ensure that additional economic pressure is even applied. He conceded that new sanctions may not change Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions and that the crisis in Ukraine may not subside.

“How well they change his calculus depends on the cooperation of other countries,” Obama said during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Obama’s comments underscored the difficulties he faces in devising a response to Russia’s aggressive moves on Ukraine’s eastern border and the growing unrest in the country driven by pro-Russian insurgents. He did not put a timeline on when sanctions could be applied, saying only it was a matter of days, not weeks.

Obama complained that militias and armed men continue to take over government buildings in Ukraine in defiance of Ukrainian authorities. Pro-Russian insurgents have been especially active in eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Under an agreement struck last week in Geneva, Russia had agreed to take steps to defuse the tensions.

“So far we have seen them not abide by the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva,” Obama said. If that continues, he said, “there will be further consequences and we will ramp up further sanctions.”

Obama’s caution came in the wake of a warning by the Russian foreign minister that attacks on Russian citizens or interests in Ukraine would bring a firm response. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov compared the circumstances to those that triggered the war with Georgia in 2008.

By acknowledging that he still needed cooperation from allies to impose new sanctions, Obama laid bare one of the key obstacles to presenting a united front against Russia. Many European countries rely on Russian energy and fear that increased pressure on Moscow could hurt their own economies.

“It’s important to emphasize that throughout this process our goal has been to change Mr. Putin’s calculus, that our preference is to resolve this diplomatically, that sanctions hurt Russia more than anybody else but they are disruptive to the global economy,” Obama said.

In Russia, Lavrov on Wednesday declared that attacks on Russian citizens are attacks against the Russian federation. His comments came day after Ukraine announced it was re-launching a campaign against pro-Russia insurgents occupying government facilities in the mostly Russian-speaking east.

“If we were attacked we could certainly respond,” Lavrov said.



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