WH: Russia should note US military exercises

The Obama administration on Tuesday said U.S. military drills in Eastern Europe "speak in a clear voice" to Russia, but that the White House still hopes for a diplomatic solution.

A U.S. Navy destroyer plans to take part in military exercises with Romanian and Bulgarian warships in the Black Sea, just across the water from the Crimean Peninsula. In Poland, U.S. fighter jets plan to participate in joint exercises.

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"We obviously have provided stepped-up assistance to those countries in this case," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "And this is part of our effort to work with our international partners and allies and to speak in a clear voice together that the actions taken by Russia to intervene militarily in contravention of international law and in violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity is something that we all oppose."

But the White House stressed that it wanted to de-escalate the crisis through diplomatic negotiations and revealed that Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday.

"The goal is to see the situation de-escalate and for the Russian military personnel that are in Crimea to return to their bases, and to return to levels that are consistent with the basing agreement Russia has with Ukraine, and for all violations of Ukraine's sovereignty by a foreign nation and violations of Ukraine's territorial integrity to cease," Carney said.

Still, Carney acknowledged there remained "a disagreement about basic facts" in the crisis, which began when Russian forces entered Crimea late last month. Kremlin officials have said the action was taken to protect Russian nationals in the region after pro-European legislators took power in Kiev while Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia.

"You have the facts as we know them that are clearly established and that are agreed to by people around the region and the world, and the facts being asserted by Russian government officials that just don't reflect what's actually happened," Carney said.

The posturing comes ahead of a meeting Wednesday at the White House with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Carney said the meeting should signal to Moscow that "we strongly support Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government."