Kerry: US, EU ready to act if Crimea vote held
The United States and the European Union will take serious steps against Russia if a referendum planned for Sunday in Ukraine's Crimea region results in Russian annexation, US Secretary of State John Kerry said today.
Kerry told a Senate hearing that he hoped to avoid such a response through last-ditch discussions tomorrow with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in London.
At a House of Representatives hearing later, Kerry suggested that the referendum would go ahead and that any sanctions depended on Moscow's response.
"If we are not successful tomorrow in finding a way forward and the referendum - which we all anticipate is going to take place on Sunday - is done without some path forward, there are going to be serious repercussions," Kerry told the House Foreign Relations Committee.
Kerry appeared before the panel to discuss the State Department's budget request for 2015.
The United States has said it recognizes the historic ties between Crimea and Russia but is opposed to the takeover of the Black Sea peninsula by Russian forces. The United States said that action violated Ukraine's sovereignty and international law. The Crimean takeover followed the ouster of a Russian-backed Ukrainian government after months of protests.
Even as tensions mounted over Crimea and Russia launched new military exercises near Ukraine, Kerry cautioned against "hysteria or excessive concern" over the possibility that Russian forces could take over Ukraine.
"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 in Europe and here," Kerry told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Foreign Operations earlier in the day.
The United States has already prepared the way for imposing visa bans and asset freezes on Russian and Ukrainian individuals and companies.
At a regular news briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "Should Russia continue down the path that it is currently on and move forward with an attempt to annex Crimea or to in other ways continue to violate Ukraine's sovereignty, there will no doubt be additional costs."
While not providing details of what additional sanctions the United States might pursue, Carney said, "I don't think Russia has any doubt that we have the tools available and the authority available to heighten the cost to Russia for the transgressions that have occurred."