Ukraine crisis gets worse, tanks appear in the east

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Russian armored units are gathering at Ukraine’s eastern border, highlighting President Barack Obama failed efforts to deescalate the slow-motion Russian invasion of Ukraine and its Crimean province.

“It is certainly not deescalating… the longer it stays at an escalated status, it is not getting better,“ White House spokesman Jay Carney admitted March 13.

The new escalation was caused by President Vladimir Putin’s decision to assemble Russian armored forces along Ukraine’s borders. Those forces are more powerful than Ukraine’s small military.

The Russian armored forces are likely to be kept on a tight leash by Putin prior to the March 16 referendum in Crimea, which may result in a popular vote for the Crimea’s secession from Ukraine.

Crimea is an ethnic-Russian region in Ukraine, which is mostly populated by ethnic Ukrainians. Southeastern Ukraine is also heavily populated by ethnic Russians.

Obama will not recognize the results of the referendum, said Carney. “It would not be legitimate,” because the status of any portion of Ukraine has to be decided by all Ukrainians.

Throughout the briefing, Carney said additional costs — such as economic sanctions — will be imposed on Russia if the Russian government annexes Crimea.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will soon meet his Russian counterpart to  discuss the crisis, Carney said.

Without a deescalation, “there will be additional costs, and the costs that we can impose… are authorized under the executive order, and that includes sanctions,” he said.

When asked if Russian forces might attack after the referendum, Carney replied that he “would not want to speculate about that terrible scenario.”

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