Obama on Russia: ‘Large countries don’t bully smaller countries’

Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT) January 25, 2015

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New Delhi (CNN)
The military option is out, President Barack Obama said Sunday, but the U.S. will be looking at all other options to “ratchet up the pressure on Russia” on the issue of Ukraine.

“We have no interest in seeing Russia weakened or its economy in shambles. We have a profound interest, as I believe every country does, in promoting a core principle, which is: Large countries don’t bully smaller countries,” Obama told reporters.

Speaking in New Delhi after a lengthy flight on Air Force One, Obama said Sunday he will “look at all the additional options that are available to us short of military confrontation.”

On Monday, Obama will be the first U.S. leader to headline India’s annual Republic Day parade, a colorful military spectacle featuring marching bands, dancing and lots of heavy machinery rolling down the stately Rajpath Boulevard.

The parade will be a reminder of the decades of sometimes-tense relations between India and the U.S. A military demonstration at heart, the vehicles and equipment parading before Obama will be mostly Russian-made, a vestige of India’s stance during the Cold War.

Russia remains India’s largest supplier of weapons, and while their share is steadily decreasing, Russian military imports still amount to three-quarters of India’s stockpile.

With U.S.-Russia relations worsening to Cold War levels, Obama hopes to balance Moscow’s influence in India during his visit this week.

His visit comes a day after city officials in Mariupol, Ukraine, said shelling in southeastern Ukraine killed at least 30 people, including two children.

Another 102 people were injured, at least 75 of whom needed hospital treatment, and many suffered shrapnel injuries, Mariupol City Council said.

Pro-Russian separatists are blamed for the attack on residential areas in the port city, Donetsk regional police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said on his Facebook page.

Monitors with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said they conducted a crater analysis which showed the use of Grad and Uragan rockets that likely originated from areas controlled by the pro-Russian rebel group Donetsk People’s Republic.

The shelling comes amid a surge in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed Ukraine and Syria during a phone call, the State Department said.

“On Ukraine, the Secretary reiterated our condemnation of the separatists’ grad missile attack on civilians in Mariupol … and other separatist attacks,” a statement said. “The Secretary reiterated the need for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire, a withdrawal of heavy weapons, and closing the border.

“He also underscored U.S. readiness to participate in serious settlement efforts, making clear that deescalation is in everyone’s interests, that Russia will be judged by its actions, and that the costs to Russia will only increase if attacks continue.”

Kerry has previously warned of increased international pressure on Russia.

“We call on Russia to end its support for separatists immediately, close the international border with Ukraine, and withdraw all weapons, fighters and financial backing,” Kerry said in a statement Saturday.

The White House says Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday.

They “expressed grave concern over Russia’s blatant disregard for its commitments under the September Minsk agreement and unilateral escalation of the conflict,” the White House said.

Thousands have been killed since the conflict broke out in the spring of last year. A ceasefire agreed to in September in Minsk, Belarus, crumbled long ago.

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