Tensions rise in Ukraine amid Russian standoff
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev Tuesday to reinforce American support for Ukraine's new government. Meanwhile, Russia is ignoring demands to end its military takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region, despite stern warnings from the president and other European countries.
There were tense moments this morning between Ukrainian troops and Russian soldiers occupying their country. Russian President Vladimir Putin is ordering troops, training near Ukraine's border to pull back. But in Crimea, thousands of Russian soldiers stand strong.
Speaking to reporters in Russia, Putin called the new government illegitimate and said he's willing to use force as a last resort. Putin also threatened sanctions against Russia will backfire.
Putin called the removal of Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich an unconstitutional coup. After Yanukovich lost power, Russia effectively took control of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and has signaled it would be willing to move into eastern Ukraine.
Secretary of State John Kerry is in Ukraine, offering US support to the new government. Kerry met with Ukraine's acting president and prime minister in Kiev after his arrival and also traveled to the city's Independence Square. There he laid flowers at a memorial for those killed during the violent unrest in Kiev that led to Yanukovich fleeing the country.
As Kerry was driven away, a small group chanted "thank you" to the secretary.
Meantime, President Obama is warning Russia to change course or face consequences.
"What cannot be done is for Russia with impunity to put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that are recognized around the world," said Obama.
US military exercises and trade talks with Russia are now on hold and President Obama is threatening more consequences, like banning visas for Russians involved in the crackdown and even kicking the country out of the G-8.
But some in congress say the president hasn't been strong enough.
"This is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America's strength anymore," said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
Tensions are mounting as the west debates the right course with Russia.
President Obama is asking Congress to approve an aid package for Ukraine immediately. The United States is hoping to send one billion dollars in aid to the country and technical support for Ukraine's bank and help with the elections process. President Obama said this should not be a partisan issue.
Russia wants the country to return to the early agreement Ukraine struck with protesters in February, but that didn't address many of the complaints that caused the protest in the first place.
Former ambassador Michael McFaul says Russia's business leaders could start to splinter under economic pressure but right now, Putin doesn't appear to be backing down in Crimea and McFaul questions if he is even considering the long term consequences.