America accuses Russia of using "dark tactics"
Barack Obama yesterday warned of further penalties against Russia. The US president also met Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine's president-elect, in Washington's strongest yet show of support for Kiev in its confrontation with Moscow.
In a speech littered with Cold War references, Mr Obama accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using "the dark tactics of the 20th century" and promised that "Russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for Russia".
The meeting in Warsaw came as Ukrainian troops claimed that they had killed 300 insurgents in fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Both men were in the Polish capital for a ceremony marking 25 years since the fall of communism in the country, an anniversary that Mr Obama explicitly linked with current events in Ukraine. "We stand together because we believe that upholding peace and security is the responsibility of every nation," Mr Obama said.
"Bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small, or impose their will at the barrel of a gun or with masked men taking over buildings. And the stroke of a pen can never legitimise the theft of a neighbour's land."
Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's pro-Russian president, was ousted in February and, in the ensuing turmoil, Crimea was annexed by Moscow.
"After investing so much blood and treasure to bring Europe together, how can we allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define this new century?" Mr Obama asked.
Mr Obama's meeting with Mr Poroshenko was part of a series of public demonstrations of US support for Ukraine, amid warnings to Moscow to avoid further entanglements in the country.
A day earlier, Mr Obama pledged to allocate $1bn (€739m) to boost US troop numbers in Europe. He has also promised to supply Ukraine with military assistance, including battlefield supplies such as body armour and night-vision equipment.
Mr Putin hit back at criticism of Russian interference in Ukraine, accusing the US of following the "most aggressive" foreign policy in the world.
"It is no secret that the most aggressive politics, the most severe, is American politics. Its soldiers are everywhere, thousands of miles from their own borders," he said in an interview with France's Europe 1 radio station and TF1 television station.
But he added that he was "ready" for talks with Washington. "I have no reason to believe that President Obama doesn't want to talk to the Russian president, it's his choice," Mr Putin said. "I am ready for dialogue."
The two are expected to cross paths today in Paris and on Friday in Normandy when world leaders gather to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is also expected to raise concerns about Ukraine with Mr Putin tomorrow.
Russia has pulled back some of the troop formations poised on the Ukrainian border and has ignored repeated appeals by rebel leaders to send assistance.
But what seems to be a deliberately porous border is allowing a steady flow of volunteer fighters and equipment to reach the rebels. (© Daily Telegraph, London)