Published March 13, 2014
American diplomats are warning Russia that it will face “very serious” consequences by Monday if the country does not stand down on Ukraine, as they scramble to prevent Moscow from annexing the disputed Crimea region.
Secretary of State John Kerry, in a last-ditch bid to convince Russia to cooperate, is flying to London on Thursday evening to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday. He spoke briefly with Lavrov over the phone in advance of the meeting, and according to the State Department reiterated the administration’s concerns about the upcoming referendum on Sunday — when Crimea residents are set to vote on whether to join Russia.
That referendum has the potential to significantly escalate the crisis. Asked Thursday what would happen if Crimea votes to leave Ukraine and the Russian government approves it, Kerry vowed “a response” to the referendum itself.
“In addition, if there is no sign of any capacity to be able to move forward and resolve this issue, there will be a very serious series of steps on Monday in Europe and here with respect the options that are available to us,” Kerry told a Senate panel.
That message was echoed at the White House and during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power decried the looming referendum as potentially “destabilizing.”
“Sunday’s referendum in Crimea is hastily planned, unjustified and divisive,” she said.
Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in New York, declared at the U.N. meeting that Crimea will remain a part of Ukraine.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador, though, remained defiant, blasting those who dispute the legitimacy of Sunday’s vote.