On Monday, President Obama spoke out against Russia, telling reporters in the Oval Office that the country is “on the wrong side of history” when it comes to military force in the Ukraine.
The President also said that Russia’s actions violate international law. He continued, telling reporters the United States is considering economic and diplomatic options that will isolate Russia. Obama called on Congress to work on an aid package to Ukraine and make it the “first order of business.”
On Tuesday, that aid package was revealed by the White House. According to the Huffington Post:
The Obama administration readied economic sanctions against Russia on Tuesday as it formally announced an aid package of $1 billion in energy subsidies to Ukraine amid worries that Moscow would extend its military reach into the mainland of the former Soviet republic.
Additionally, the officials said, the U.S. has suspended what was described as a narrow set of discussions with Russia over a bilateral trade investment treaty. It is also going to provide technical advice to the Ukraine government about its trade rights with Russia. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be quoted by name before the official announcement was made.
Officials also say the Obama administration is considering slapping Russia with unspecified economic sanctions as soon as this week. The Pentagon announced it was suspending military-to-military engagements with Russia, including exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and conferences.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev on Tuesday for a five-hour show of support for the Ukraine government as it grapples with a military takeover of Crimea — a strategic, mostly pro-Russian region in the country’s southeast.
Kerry was also there to pay homage to the dozens of protesters who were slain Feb. 20 in anti-government demonstrations that days later ousted Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych.
Meanwhile, troops loyal to Moscow fired warning shots at unarmed Ukrainian soldiers on Tuesday.
According to NBC:
The pro-Russian troops, who had taken control of the Belbek air base, fired into the air as around 300 Ukrainian soldiers, who previously manned the airfield, demanded their jobs back.
About a dozen Russian soldiers at the base warned the Ukrainians not to approach. They fired several warning shots into the air and said they would shoot the Ukrainians if they continued to march toward them.
The shots were apparently the first fired since pro-Russian troops — estimated by Ukrainian authorities to be 16,000 strong — tightened their grip on the Crimea Peninsula over the weekend.
That same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled his forces back from the Ukrainian border, but said Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians in the country.
He also accused the West of encouraging an anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine and driving it onto anarchy and declared that any sanctions the West places on Russia will backfire.
We’ll keep you updated with the latest developments in the Russia and Ukraine standoff.