By Julian Pecquet and Justin Sink - 03/04/14 12:59 PM EST
President Obama on Tuesday said there was still time for Russia to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, as Secretary of State John Kerry, during a trip to Kiev, warned the Kremlin it risked international isolation if it did not immediately end its invasion.
In his first public remarks in days, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to seek to lower the rhetoric a day after the Russian economy was hit hard over the standoff.
While Russia reserves the right to use force in Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians, Putin said he saw no reason to do so at this time, according to media reports.
Obama, in calling on Russia to stand down, acknowledged what he described as “reports that President Putin is pausing for a moment and reflecting on what's happened.”
“There is the ability for Ukraine to be a friend of the West's and a friend of Russia's, as long as none of us are inside of Ukraine trying to meddle and intervene, certainly not militarily, with decisions that properly belong to the Ukrainian people,” Obama said.
Russia has claimed its troops have entered the country to help ethnic Russians, but those claims drew scoffs on Tuesday from the Obama administration.
Obama said there had been “no evidence of serious violence.”
He said Russia's intervention was “not based on actual concern for Russian nationals or Russian speakers inside of Ukraine, but is based on Russia seeking, through force, to exert influence on a neighboring country.”
Kerry also challenged Putin's contention that Russian troops were on a humanitarian mission to protect Russians in Ukraine from pro-Western “fascists.”