- Associated Press - Friday, August 22, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) - Former Polish president Lech Walesa said Friday that the United States can take the lead in organizing a global response to Russia’s role in Ukraine.

Walesa said the world wants leadership in the situation. Tensions rose Friday after a Russian convoy rolled into rebel-held Ukraine.

“I want to make clear that it’s not up to the United States to be solving all the problems for the others,” Walesa said through an interpreter. But he said Washington can provide the framework for solutions and help build a united front.

He said that while encouraging talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the United States should help identify what steps could hit him and Russia the hardest, and then other countries “could join in” to bring pressure.

“Actually the more reasonable we are, the more integrated we are, the more in solidarity we stand, the sooner we will convert Russia to the right way,” Walesa said in a response to a reporter’s question during an appearance at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. “Instead, what we have is many countries acting in one way or the other. … Unorganized, it is really very ineffective.”

A Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. government “strongly condemns” the unilateral movement of the Russian convoy, which the Kiev government called a “direct invasion.”

Walesa led the Solidarity movement that successfully challenged Soviet bloc communism in Poland. He and the late Nelson Mandela will be honored Saturday evening with the center’s 2014 International Freedom Conductor awards for their roles in fighting for freedom. The award’s name refers to the “conductors” in the underground railroad network who helped slaves reach freedom during the Civil War era.

Mandela, who died last year, is being represented by his great-grandson Luvuyo Mandela and Nelson Mandela Foundation head Sello Hatang from South Africa.

___ Contact the reporter at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell

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