The US won't be sending troops to Crimea anytime soon. President Obama effectively ruled out a military response to Russia's land grab yesterday, USA Today reports. "We do not need to trigger an actual war with Russia," he told KSDK-TV, in an interview ostensibly about raising the minimum wage. "The Ukrainians don't want that, nobody would want that." But Obama said to expect "even more disruptive economic actions that could have a significant impact on the Russian economy."
In other Ukraine news:
- Russian forces freed Ukraine's captured navy commander today, after Ukraine demanded the release of all hostages in Crimea, CNN reports. If they weren't freed by 9pm, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov threatened to take "technical and technological" action—meaning, likely, turning off Crimea's utilities. Russia's defense minister asked Crimea to free the hostages.
- Even though Ukraine is reportedly pulling troops from the region, its parliament issued a declaration today saying that it still considered Crimea part of the Ukraine, and that "the Ukrainian people will never, under no circumstances, stop fighting for the liberation of Crimea from the occupants."
- European leaders met today in Sevastopol to discuss further punitive action against Russia, with Angela Merkel saying the EU would issue more travel bans and asset freezes against Russians, the Washington Post reports. But analysts say the measures aren't strong enough to change Russian behavior.
- Ukraine, too, is taking only restrained steps. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk yesterday backed off Kiev's threat to impose a visa regime, saying it would likely be ineffective, and would inconvenience many Ukrainians.
- Russia, meanwhile, pulled out a threat of its own. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia might revise its stance on Iran's nuclear program in response to US and EU sanctions. "We wouldn't like to use these talks as an element of the game of raising the stakes," he said, according to the AP. "But if they force us into that, we will take retaliatory measures."