- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2014

Powerless to stop Russia’s takeover of its territory, Ukraine ordered the withdrawal of its remaining troops from Crimea on Monday while the U.S. and other countries suspended Russia from the Group of Eight industrialized nations.

The order by Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov completed Ukraine’s capitulation of the strategic peninsula, where Russian units seized several more military bases in the past three days, in some cases smashing armored vehicles through gates and firing guns into the air. Russian troops captured a naval base in Feodosia, on the peninsula’s eastern coast, early Monday.

President Obama, in Amsterdam for a long-scheduled nuclear summit, held an emergency meeting on the crisis in Ukraine with the leaders of the G-8, who agreed to cancel their attendance at a scheduled meeting in Sochi, Russia, in June. The other nations in the G-8 — the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy — condemned Russia’s actions as a “clear violation of international law” and said they would meet instead in Brussels this summer without Russia.

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After the two-hour, closed-door meeting, the leaders said they should shun Moscow “until Russia changes course and the environment comes back to where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion.”

The world powers warned that they were prepared to “intensify actions” against Russia, including ordering more severe economic sanctions, if the Kremlin escalates its incursion into Ukraine.

** FILE ** President Barack Obama walks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel prior to the group photo at the G-20 summit at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
** FILE ** President Barack Obama walks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel ... more >

In an unexpected development, Russia’s foreign minister met in The Hague with his Ukrainian counterpart, the highest level of contact between the two nations since Russia moved forces into Crimea nearly a month ago.

Mr. Obama said Russia will pay a price for annexing Crimea illegally.

“Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far.”

Administration officials said there is no reason for Russia to remain in the G-8, into which Russia was accepted in 1998.

“Our view is simply that if Russia is flagrantly violating international law and the order that the G-7 has hoped to build since the end of the Cold War, there’s no need to engage with Russia,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy White House national security adviser.

Russia’s actions have sparked one of Europe’s deepest political crises in decades and drawn comparisons to the Cold War era’s tensions between East and West. Mr. Obama and other Western leaders have condemned Russia’s movements as a violation of international law and have ordered economic sanctions on close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, though those punishments appear to have done little to change the Russian leaders’ calculus.

In Congress, the Senate moved toward a vote on sanctions for Russia and aid for Ukraine.

Ukraine pushed for the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a resolution, possibly Thursday, reaffirming the country’s territorial integrity and declaring that the referendum in Crimea that led to its annexation by Russia “has no validity.”

Mr. Putin said the peninsula was annexed to Russia in part to correct a historical mistake. The territory was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 when both nations were republics of the Soviet Union.

The majority of the population in Crimea is ethnic Russian, but Russia’s occupation also was a response to the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych after a popular uprising in Kiev.

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