Looking to maintain pressure on Russia regarding the ongoing insurgency in Ukraine, President Barack Obama warned Thursday that the G7 nations are ready to impose additional sanctions if Russia's provocations continue.
Speaking to reporters at the G7 Summit in Brussels, Obama expressed his belief that the inauguration of Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko presents an opportunity to put an end to the crisis.
"Russia needs to seize that opportunity," Obama said. "Russia needs to recognize that President-elect Poroshenko is the legitimately elected leader of Ukraine and engage the government in Kyiv."
He added, "Given its influence over the militants in Ukraine, Russia continues to have a responsibility to convince them to end their violence, lay down their weapons, and enter into a dialogue with the Ukrainian government."
Obama acknowledged that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not denounce the outcome of the Ukrainian elections but stressed that what Putin does is more important than what he says.
The president reiterated that the U.S. and its European allies would have no choice but to respond if Putin continues a strategy of undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine.
Obama stated that further provocations could lead to more significant sectoral sanctions that hit the Russian banking or defense industries.
"We've seen significant capital flight just from the sanctions that we've already applied; that could easily worsen," Obama said. "And if we have sectoral sanctions, I think it will inevitably hit Russia a lot worse than it hits Europe, which have much more diversified and resilient economies."
The president noted that he may have the opportunity to talk with his Russian counterpart at ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day on Friday and promised to repeat the same message.
The summit in Brussels was originally scheduled to be held in Sochi, Russia, but the location was changed after Russia's annexation of Crimea. It marked the first time that Russia did not participate in the summit since 1997.
At the joint press conference with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama was also asked about his recent decision to exchange five Taliban militants for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Obama continued to defend the decision, reiterating that the U.S. has a basic principle of not leaving anybody wearing the American uniform behind.
"I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents and that the American people understand that this is somebody's child and that we don't condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back," Obama said.
by RTT Staff Writer
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