U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was dumbfounded on Tuesday when he was asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin denying his troops are in the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
Kerry spoke Tuesday at a press conference in Kiev, Ukraine, after he met with the transitional Ukrainian government and delivered an aid package including $US1 billion in loan guarantees.
“He really denied there were troops in Crimea?” Kerry said in response to a question from NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday.
In a press conference in Russia earlier Tuesday, Putin denied the Russian-speaking soldiers occupying key Crimean military sites were Russian special forces. Rather, Putin said they were local self-defence forces.
“There are many military uniforms. Go into any local shop and you can find one,” he said.
Kerry accused the Russian government of “hiding its hand behind falsehoods, intimidation, and provocations” with its aggression in Ukraine.
Kerry and U.S. President Barack Obama, who spoke at a budget-related event in Washington, both said that Russia had violated international law with its aggression in the Crimean peninsula.
“There is a strong belief that Russia’s action is violating international law,” Obama told reporters. “President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations. I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.”
Kerry and Obama also both said that Russia’s aggression was not a sign of strength, pledging full support to the Ukrainian people.
“We all greatly admire the restraint that the transitional government has shown,” Kerry said. “They have shown restraint, despite the invasion of the Ukrainian homeland and a Russian government that has chosen intimidations.”
This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.
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