In a conference call with reporters, senior Obama administration officials said the Russian military was "settling in" and strengthening its hold on Crimea, a peninsula in southern Ukraine with a heavily ethnic Russian population. The additional forces flown into Crimea on Sunday have surrounded Ukraine's small contingent of troops in the region, officials said.
The U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, disputed Russian claims that ethnic Russians have been under attack in the area, and hinted that Russia may be behind some provocative actions that have sharpened ethnic tensions in eastern Ukraine.
But they said they have not, so far, seen evidence of a Russian military presence in portions of Ukraine outside Crimea.
On his visit, Kerry plans to meet with members of the Ukrainian legislature and with private civil society groups to discuss planned American diplomatic and economic support for the newly formed government,
U.S. officials said they are trying to "expedite" financial aid to Ukraine to ease what they described as a short-term crisis. They said the administration is making progress building support for a broad international effort to penalize Russia economically and diplomatically for its intervention in Ukraine.
France, Britain and Canada are joining the United States in halting preparations for a scheduled meeting of the
But, in an indication of the difficulty the U.S. and its allies may face in trying to punish Russia, German officials indicated Sunday that they are not prepared to drop out of the G-8 meeting and will resist efforts to hurt the Russian economy.
[Updated, 5:55 p.m., March 2: The
U.S officials said they have begun canceling trade and military meetings with the Russians and plan other steps to disengage with Moscow in retaliation for what they are terming an "invasion" of Ukrainian territory. They said they are weighing visa bans and sanctions on individual Russian leaders who are deemed to have played a part in the move against Ukraine.
The political arm of the