“It challenges that most basic of principles of our international system – that borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun, that nations have the right to determine their own future. It undermines an international order where the rights of peoples and nations are upheld and can’t simply be taken away by brute force,” said Obama.
“This is what’s at stake in Ukraine. This is why we stand with the people of Ukraine today,” he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, called on Russian-backed insurgents to “stop advancing” and allow Ukraine to withdraw its troops from the region, the Associated Press reported.
“Now let’s put to rest once and for all the distortions or outdated thinking that has caused this crisis. Our NATO alliance is not aimed against any other nation. We’re in an alliance of democracies dedicated to our own collective defense,” Obama said.
“Countries like Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania are not post-Soviet territory. You are sovereign and independent nations with the right to make your own decisions. No other nation gets to veto your security decisions,” he added.
Protests in Ukraine “were not led by neo-Nazis or fascists,” Obama said, but by “ordinary Ukrainians – men and women, young and old, who are fed up with a corrupt regime and who wanted to share in the progress and prosperity that they see in the rest of Europe, and they did not engage in an armed seizure of power.”
“After an agreement was brokered for constitutional reform, the former president then abandoned his office, and Parliament endorsed new elections so that today Ukrainians have a new democratically elected president,” Obama said.
Obama plans to meet with the newly elected Ukrainian president at the White House this month.
“He was chosen by the people of Ukraine,” Obama said.
“It was not the government of Kiev that destabilized Eastern Ukraine, it’s been the pro-Russian separatists who are encouraged by Russia, financed by Russia, trained by Russia, supplied by Russia, and armed by Russia,” he said, adding that Russian forces who moved into Ukraine were “not on a humanitarian or peacekeeping mission.”
“They are Russian combat forces with Russian weapons in Russian tanks,” Obama said.