Kerry warns of 'profound' consequences for Russia

Secretary of State John Kerry late Saturday condemned Russia’s “invasion and occupation” of Ukrainian territory, calling it a threat to the peace and security of Ukraine and the wider region.

“Unless immediate and concrete steps are taken by Russia to deescalate tensions, the effect on U.S.-Russian relations and on Russia’s international standing will be profound,” Kerry said in a statement.

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The upper house of Russia’s parliament on Saturday approved President Vladimir Putin’s request to authorize the use of military force, one day after Russian troops entered the Crimean peninsula.

Kerry said the U.S. recognizes and respects Russia’s ties to Ukraine and its concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russians.

“But these concerns can and must be addressed in a way that does not violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, by directly engaging the Government of Ukraine,” he said.

“I spoke with President Turchynov [Saturday] morning to assure him he had the strong support of the United States and commend the new government for showing the utmost restraint in the face of the clear and present danger to the integrity of their state, and the assaults on their sovereignty,” Kerry said. “We also urge that the Government of Ukraine continue to make clear, as it has from throughout this crisis, its commitment to protect the rights of all Ukrainians and uphold its international obligations.”

“As President Obama has said, we call for Russia to withdraw its forces back to bases, refrain from interference elsewhere in Ukraine, and support international mediation to address any legitimate issues regarding the protection of minority rights or security,” Kerry added.

Kerry said he also spoke to his counterparts Saturday from around the world, adding that they will work closely together to support Ukraine and its people “at this historic hour.”

“In the coming days, emergency consultations will commence in the UN Security Council, the North Atlantic Council, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in defense of the underlying principles critical to the maintenance of international peace and security,” he said.

“We continue to believe in the importance of an international presence from the UN or OSCE to gather facts, monitor for violations or abuses and help protect rights. As a leading member of both organizations, Russia can actively participate and make sure its interests are taken into account. The people of Ukraine want nothing more than the right to define their own future – peacefully, politically and in stability. They must have the international community’s full support at this vital moment. The United States stands with them, as we have for 22 years, in seeing their rights restored.”