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Kerry Warns Russia, Russia Warns Kiev ... Anyone Listening?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry used strong words and threats of more sanctions on Russia, but tension in Ukraine only appears set to escalate.
Posted at 10:25 AM, Apr 25, 2014

In an ongoing match of world superpowers essentially saying, "You back down," "No, you back down," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called out Russia for increased military exercises on the Ukrainian border. More and more, analysts wonder if the two sides are simply ignoring each other in an inevitable march to armed conflict.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: "Russia has instead chosen an illegitimate course of armed violence to try and achieve with the barrel of a gun and the force of a mob what couldn't be achieved any other way. ... Let me be clear. If Russia continues in this direction, it will not just be a grave mistake. It will be an expensive mistake." (Via U.S. Department of State)

The remarks come just one week after U.S., Ukrainian and Russian diplomats came to an agreement aimed at easing tensions in the region. Kerry said Russia hasn't lived up to its end of the deal. (Via CNN)

Kerry also said U.S. intelligence indicates Russian intelligence and special ops are actively working to destabilize eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian militants have taken over several cities hoping to separate from the country. But what's a superpower to do when the other guy simply says, "That's not how we see it"?

The U.S. says new economic sanctions against Russia might come down as soon as Friday, and Standard & Poor's cut the country's credit rating to — as CNN Money calls it — "one notch above junk."

While Russia continues to conduct military drills involving tens of thousands of troops, Ukraine attempted to take back those cities in the East in what it's called an "anti-terrorist operation." (Via Al Jazeera)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Bloody, fiery clashes erupting as the Ukrainian military moves to reclaim cities taken by pro-Russian militants — killing five of them, they say — and destroying three checkpoints in the eastern town of Slovyansk."

The Kyiv Post reported Ukraine surrounded Slovyansk in an effort to cut militants off from any outside help, but violence continues elsewhere.

RT posted this video of the aftermath of a military helicopter exploding in Kramatorsk. The head of the Ukrainian Security Service's Anti-Terrorist Center said the helicopter's pilot managed to jump out after sniper fire hit its fuel tank.

Now for Russia's side of things.

As an op-ed writer for the Los Angeles Times points out and Russian-funded media outlet RT reports, Russia blames the U.S. and Ukrainians who overthrew their ex-government for the tension.

As BBC's Steve Rosenberg writes: "​If you analyse the tough language coming out of Moscow in recent days and look at the way this conflict is being portrayed by Russian TV channels - as Kiev sending in troops against innocent civilians - there is no sign that the Kremlin is prepared to change its view."

I swear somebody predicted this — that Russia would use tension as justification to cross the border.

ANDREI ILLARIONOV, CATO INSTITUTE'S CENTER FOR GLOBAL LIBERTY AND PROSPERITY: "They will stage provocations in which there will be victims. After that — using these victims at pretext — they will have a military intervention into eastern Ukraine." (Via CBC, March 5)

To be clear, both sides agree that hasn't happened yet, though a CNN reporter called the situation "extraordinarily close to open conflict." Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned any aggression by Ukraine against ethnic Russians will have consequences.