March 13 - Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the U.S. and Europe would be forced to take ''serious series of steps'' against Russia if a referendum on Crimea goes forward. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says tension between Russia and U.S. over Ukraine 'has the capacity' to affect relationship with Moscow on Syria. The United States and the European Union will respond on Monday (March 17) with a "serious series of steps" against Russia if a referendum in Ukraine's Crimea region goes ahead on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday (March 13). Kerry told a congressional hearing he hoped to avoid such steps, which include sanctions, through discussions with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in London on Friday (March 14). "If there is no sign of any capacity to be able to move forward and resolve this issue, there will be a very serious series of steps in Europe and here with respect to the options that are available to us," Kerry said in testimony on the State Department's 2015 budget request. Kerry went on to add, "Now our choice is not to be put in the position of having to do that. Our choice is to have respect for the sovereignty and independence and integrity of the country of Ukraine. Our hope is to have Russia join in respecting international law. There is no justification, no legality to this referendum taught is taking place. It violates international law. It violates the UN charter. It violates the constitution of Ukraine." Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, showing no sign of backing down in its plans to annex its neighbor's Crimea region despite a stronger than expected drive for sanctions from the EU and United States. Putin declared Russia's right to invade its neighbor on March 1, even as Russian troops were already seizing control of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula with a narrow ethnic Russian majority and a Russian naval base. The pace of events has moved rapidly on the ground, perhaps signaling an effort by Moscow to turn the annexation into a fait accompli before the West could coordinate a response.