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Kerry roasted over Ukraine inaction

The US Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russian agents and special forces of stirring separatist unrest in eastern Ukraine, saying Moscow could be trying to prepare for military action as it had in Crimea.

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San Francisco: The world must contain Russia's expansionism by withdrawing investments, finding other sources of oil and condemning its illegal annexation of Crimea, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday.

Clinton's keynote speech to a few thousand attendees at the marketing industry summit in San Francisco was about building public-private partnerships to drive the nation's economy forward. But Ms Clinton had harsh words for Russian President Vladimir Putin - and some vague words about her own presidential ambitions.

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton had stern words for Russian president Vladimir Putin at a speech in San Francisco.

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton had stern words for Russian president Vladimir Putin at a speech in San Francisco. Photo: Bloomberg

"I'm not going to make a decision [about running for president] for a while because I'm actually enjoying my life, having fun doing ordinary things" like seeing friends and taking long walks with her dog, she said before flashing a sly smile. "I danced around that pretty well, don't you think?"

There were no smiles as she discussed Mr Putin, whom she called "a tough guy with a thin skin who believes the best way to move forward is by moving backwards" to the era of the Russian empire. "He will go as far as he can unless he is somehow contained."

Ms Clinton said the "flood of money out of Russia" in recent months "is the best way to undermine the oligarchs who support him". Also important is weaning Europe from the oil Russia provides, she said, as is repeating loudly and often that "what he did in Crimea is illegal; it is against international law."

"He is obviously determined, he is very difficult to read personally and he is always looking for advantage, so he will try to put you ill at ease" through insults or bored, dismissive behaviour, she said. "I've had a lot of experience with that ... I'm not impressed by it."

Separately, in testimony in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry repeated Obama administration threats to sharply sanction Russia if its troops cross the border into eastern Ukraine. Pro-Russian separatists currently agitating in eastern Ukraine were paid and sent there by Moscow "determined to create chaos", he said.

Asked why the administration had not yet responded to requests for defensive arms from the Ukrainian government, Mr Kerry said it was being studied. But, he said, threatened sanctions against Russian economic sectors, including mining and energy, were likely to be faster and more effective.

Senator James Risch suggested that two rounds of sanctions Obama imposed on Russia when it sent in troops and later annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea were ineffective. Mr Kerry responded, "The fact is it will have a far more serious impact if they cross over or continue what's happening in east Ukraine. Now, I don't know anybody in the United States of America who said we ought to go to war over Crimea. Is there any member of this committee who believes that? I don't think so."

MCT