KIEV, Ukraine – The United States and Ukraine issued a condemnation Tuesday of Russia's takeover of Crimea as President Obama discussed with European leaders the possibility of further sanctions against Moscow at a summit in the Netherlands.
"Ukraine and the United States emphasize that they will not recognize Russia's illegal attempt to annex Crimea," read the joint statement. "Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine."
Obama later said whether Crimea is freed depends on whether Russia succumbs to the arguments of the West and sanctions against individuals in his inner circle. He said there would be no military action by the West to dislodge Russia's troops.
"It is not a done deal," Obama said in a news conference in answering a question about whether Russia now owned Crimea.
Obama urged international organizations to speed loan packages to Ukraine to help it handle its economic stagnation, while Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said the Western nations had yet to agree on tougher sanctions to get Russia to end its annexation of Crimea.
"The Russia economy is very much gas and oil dependent. If economic sanctions will be necessary … and we are not there yet .. these things will hurt Russia very badly," he said.
In Ukraine meanwhile, the parliament accepted the resignation of its defense minister as thousands of troops began withdrawing from the Crimean peninsula, now controlled by Russia.
Igor Tenyukh said he rejected criticism that he had failed to issue clear instructions to troops on how to handle the infiltration of Russian troops and the takeover of Crimean offices by pro-Moscow militiamen.
The move came as Obama met with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbeyev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, for talks at the Hague, Netherlands.
The talks were supposed to focus on nuclear security but have been overshadowed by the situation in Ukraine. Sides talks about Crimea are taking place as well between the USA and leaders of the world's top economies, known as the G-7.
Sanctions including travel and asset bans have been imposed on at least 33 Russian and Crimean individuals by both the EU and the U.S. after pro-Russian forces moved into the now-occupied peninsula and annexed the region in an official ceremony last week.
Putin had been slated to take part in the G-7 talks when they began on Monday. But the members, which include the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, excluded Russia on Monday due to the Crimea takeover.
Russia had been invited to join the informal group in 1998, at which time it began to be referred to as the G-8.
Ukrainians who are waiting to hear from the leaders say they were expecting more from the U.S. and Europe.
"When the Crimea crisis started, some of the people I know were saying that West will allow this to happen as Ukraine was not important enough to quarrel with Russia over it," said Ivan Kovalchuk of Kiev.
"I didn't believe it, but it seems like truth after all. Putin just bit off a piece of our territory and no-one cared to stop him," he said.
Ukraine is pleading with the West to take steps to prevent further incursions into its country by the Russians. Many here say Putin may try to move into East Ukraine and split the country, which is struggling to emerge from independence it declared from the former Soviet Union in 1991.
In cities in East Ukraine there are people who support closer ties to Russia and others who want to pursue alignment with Europe. Those who support Russia are worried about being mistreated by the central government in Kiev, which has pursued a more European policy.
One faction they complain about is the Right Sector, a militarist organization that took part in street protests that ended with the ousting in February of former pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych.
The group is portrayed as aggressive fascists by the Russian state-controlled media that is broadcast to East Ukraine, stoking fears about the presidential candidacy of Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh in new elections being held in May.
Alina Miroshnichenko, a supporter of the protests in Kiev, says she too is watching Right Sector but says they do not represent all of the people of Kiev.
"Many are concerned about radical organization members carrying guns," she said. "I don't feel endangered by them but I know that some people do. I hope that they find the place where they can serve the new Ukraine as fast as possible.
"They played a role in (protests), but so did thousands of other people."