WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama conveyed skepticism yesterday about Russian promises to de-escalate a volatile situation in Ukraine, and said the United State and its allies are ready to impose fresh sanctions if Moscow doesn't make good on its commitments.
"My hope is we do see follow-through," Obama said at an impromptu news conference at the White House a few hours after Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a meeting in Geneva with diplomats from Russia, Ukraine and the European Union.
"The question now becomes, will in fact they use the influence that they've exerted in a disruptive way to restore some order so that Ukrainians can carry out an election, move forward with the decentralization reforms that they've proposed, stabilize their economy and start getting back on the path of growth and democracy and that their sovereignty will be respected?" he said.
Obama did not say what additional sanctions might be in the offing if commitments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva do not materialize. U.S. officials have prepared penalties on wealthy Russians in Putin's inner circle, as well on the entities they run.
The president discussed the developments with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose support for additional sanctions would be crucial given her country's close economic ties with Russia. In a statement about their discussion, the White House said the two leaders agreed that they were prepared to enact further penalties on Russia if it does not de-escalate the situation "in short order."
In his comments from the White House, Obama noted that Russia has thousands of troops massed along its border with eastern Ukraine, a deployment he called a measure of intimidation. He said the United States and others think Russia has played a hand in the "disruption and chaos" that have recently spread through southern and eastern Ukraine.