President Obama said Thursday that the world now has evidence that Russia has been funding and arming separatists in Ukraine, but stopped short of labeling Russia’s actions an “invasion,” as Ukrainian officials claim.
“The violence is encouraged by Russia,” Obama told reporters Thursday. “New images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see.”
The remarks came just hours after Ukrainian officials reported that Russian tanks and military vehicles had fired missiles at a border post in southeastern Ukraine and then crossed into the country as Ukrainian border guards scattered.
The missiles were fired from Russia in the morning, a spokesman for the Ukrainian security council said, and followed in the early afternoon by vehicles entering Ukraine from Veselo-Voznesenka, just across the border from Novoazovsk.
Novoazovsk, which had escaped the kind of conflict raging farther north in Donetsk, came under heavy fire as rebels moved in.
Infuriated by the incursion, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared that a “Russian invasion” was taking place in his country. Poroshenko canceled a trip abroad to convene a session of the Ukrainian security council.
Asked whether he agreed that the Russian action was an “invasion,” Obama stopped short.
“I consider the action we have seen in the last week a continuation of what we’ve seen for months,” he said.
Obama said he would discuss “additional steps” to respond to the “ongoing Russian incursion” at a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Cardiff, Wales, next week. He noted that the alliance planned to reaffirm its “unwavering commitment” to NATO members in the Baltics.
"President Putin and Russia have repeatedly passed by potential off-ramps to resolve this diplomatically," he said.
The United Nations Security Council called its own emergency session to discuss Russia’s increasingly open support for rebels in Ukraine. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the Security Council that “Russia is not listening” to U.N. appeals to end the aggressive actions in Ukraine.
"In the face of these deeply alarming actions, the most important question for us now is not what we should say to Russia," Power said. "The most important question is what we should do to make Russia listen."
Russia has to “stop lying” and stop fueling the conflict, she said.
Times staff writer Parsons reported from Washington and special correspondent Gorst from Moscow.