Kerry: Russia behaving in ‘19th century’ fashion

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry threatened to impose sanctions on Russia, and slammed its ‘incredible act of aggression’ in Ukraine

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday condemned Russia’s “incredible act of aggression” in Ukraine and likened its behavior to the Soviet Union in the “19th century.”

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text,” Reuters quoted Kerry as telling the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin won the approval of his country’s parliament Saturday to deploy troops in the neighboring Ukraine to protect Russian citizens, spurning Western pleas not intervene.

While Russian officials said the parliament giving its approval doesn’t mean that the deployment will be done “quickly,” its forces have already bloodlessly seized Crimea - an isolated Black Sea peninsula where Moscow has a naval base.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Igor Tenyukh on Saturday accused Russia of sending 30 armored personnel carriers and 6,000 additional troops into Crimea.

Kerry threatened “very serious repercussions” from the United States and other countries, including sanctions to isolate Russia economically.

“It’s an incredible act of aggression. It is really a stunning, willful choice by President (Vladimir) Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations,” Kerry added.

Kerry, however, said that Russia still has “a right set of choices” that can be made to defuse the crisis.

On Saturday, the U.N. chief and U.S. President Barack Obama phone called Putin, urging him to act in a calmer manner regarding Ukraine after the latter country ousted its pro-Russian leader.

Kerry said Obama told Putin in a 90-minute phone call on Saturday that “there will be serious repercussions if this stands. The president ... told Mr. Putin that it was imperative to find a different path, to roll back this invasion and un-do this act of invasion.”

Kerry said G8 nations and some other countries are “prepared to go to the hilt to isolate Russia” with a “broad array of options” available.

“They’re prepared to put sanctions in place, they’re prepared to isolate Russia economically, the ruble is already going down. Russia has major economic challenges,” Kerry said, as he also mentioned visa bans, asset freezes and trade isolation as possible steps.

Kerry’s comments came amid a chorus of condemnation from Washington and its allies.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Sunday when asked for a response to harsh words from Kerry.

“No comment at the moment,” Peskov said.

Kerry said he spoke with foreign ministers from the G8 countries and other nations on Saturday, and says everyone is prepared “to go to the hilt” to isolate Russia.

Kerry was interviewed Sunday on CBS, ABC and NBC news shows.

The United States, Britain, and France have already pulled out of preparatory meetings this week for the G8 summit due to be held in June in Sochi, amid growing global concerns over Moscow’s threat to invade neighboring Ukraine.

(With Reuters, AFP and Associated Press)

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