TIME Foreign Policy

Kerry Lays Out Case Against Russia as U.S. Readies New Sanctions

Crisis Talks On Ukraine Are Held In Geneva
Harold Cunningham—Getty Images Secretary of State John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry accuses Moscow of "distraction, deception and destabilization" in eastern Ukraine, calling its operation there "well planned"

Secretary of State John Kerry laid out the case for additional American sanctions on Russia for promoting instability in Ukraine, warning on Thursday that Russia’s “window to change course is closing” before sanctions are imposed on its economy.

Adopting the tone of a prosecutor, Kerry detailed the interim Ukrainian government’s compliance with last week’s Geneva agreement to de-escalate the situation, adding “Russia has refused to take a single concrete step in the right direction.” Kerry firmly laid out alleged Russian actions in eastern Ukraine, from deploying special-operations forces and spies in plainclothes to funding and arming separatist groups.

“Russia has put its faith in distraction, deception and destabilization” in eastern Ukraine, Kerry said. “What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized.”

Kerry also rejected a range of claims from Russian President Vladimir Putin, including his assertion Thursday that the Internet is a project of the CIA, while criticizing the network Russia Today as a “propaganda bullhorn” for the Russian government’s “fantasy” in Ukraine.

“We have seen this movie before; we saw it most recently in Crimea,” he said.

For weeks American officials have been preparing to impose additional sanctions on Russia if it does not reverse course, working to reassure reluctant European allies that broad-based sanctions on sectors of Russia’s economy may be necessary despite the costs to their own economies. On Thursday in Japan, President Barack Obama said sanctions against Russia were now “teed up” but did not specify what specific sanctions may be imposed. Earlier this month, Obama signed an Executive Order authorizing sanctions should they be needed on Russia’s financial services, energy, mining, defense and engineering sectors.

“Let me be clear,” Kerry said. “If Russia continues in this direction, it will not only be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake.”

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