Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia today of dragging its feet on de-escalating the situation in eastern Ukraine, one week after the two countries reached an agreement in Geneva, Switzerland, to reduce tensions.
“For seven days, Russia has refused to take a single concrete step in the right direction. Not a single Russian official -- not one -- has publicly gone on television in Ukraine and called on the separatists to support the Geneva Agreement, to support the stand-down, to give up their weapons and get out of the Ukrainian buildings,” he said during a hastily-arranged appearance today in the State Department briefing room.
Kerry warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would see additional sanctions on individuals and businesses in his country but did not make any mention of when they would be imposed.
“If Russia continues in this direction, it will not just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake,” he said.
Kerry also reiterated that the United States believes Russia is completely behind the masked protesters who have sprung up in eastern Ukrainian town over the past months, noting that they speak with foreign accents and have matching uniforms.
“Nobody should doubt Russia’s hand in this,” he said.
"Russia has chosen an illegitimate, coercive armed violence to achieve with the barrel of a gun and the force of a mob what couldn't be achieved any other way," Kerry added.
He mentioned once again photos that have surfaced of fighters who reportedly also served the Russian side in conflicts in Georgia and Chechnya, the validity of which has been questioned.
Kerry also lashed out at the Russian-funded international news network Russia Today, known in the U.S. as RT, which he called a “propaganda bullhorn.”
“Russia Today Network has deployed to promote President Putin's fantasy about what is playing out on the ground. They almost spend full time devoted to this effort to propagandize and to distort what is happening or not happening in Ukraine,” he said.
Kerry ridiculed Putin for making what he called “outrageous” claims, including that the Internet is a “CIA project.”
Despite the tough talk, the last tranche of sanctions imposed by the United States on Russian individuals and others linked to the Ukrainian unrest was released on April 11. So far, 38 individuals have been sanctioned as well as one Russian bank and a Crimean-based gas company.
Meanwhile, Russia has shown no signs of backing down since signing the agreement in Geneva. Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu announced today his troops would begin military drills in southern and western districts of Russia in response to the situation in eastern Ukraine.
And on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the United States of fomenting the unrest there.
"When you receive daily calls from John Kerry, who is saying what you should do, and when you realize, how far the U.S. is from Ukraine and how much they are agitated, it appears that indeed they direct this process to a large extent,” Lavrov said in an interview with RT.