Chuck Hagel’s calls get lost in Ukraine
By: Kate Brannen
February 20, 2014 05:08 PM EST
Hello, Ukraine. Anyone home?
Amid escalating violence in Ukraine, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has repeatedly — and unsuccessfully — tried to reach the Ukrainian defense ministry, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby disclosed Thursday.
“We haven’t been able to connect with anyone at the defense ministry,” Kirby told Pentagon reporters, who repeatedly pressed him on the issue.
“How long do you let [the phone] ring,” one quipped.
“We’ve been trying pretty diligently all week,” Kirby said, noting this is the first time, as far as he knows, that Hagel has been unable to reach to his counterpart in another country.
“It’s pretty unusual,” Kirby said
Hagel last talked to the Ukrainian defense ministry in December, Kirby said, but not since.
Like the rest of the Obama administration, Hagel is “deeply troubled by the violence” in Ukraine, Kirby said.
According to staff in the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukrainian armed forces, so far, have not been involved in the violence against the protesters, but have been deployed to protect ammunition depots and other military assets, Kirby said.
On Wednesday, during a brief session with reporters while traveling in Mexico, President Barack Obama pointedly warned the Ukrainian military to steer clear of the violent protests in Kiev and anywhere else in the country.
“We’ll be monitoring very carefully the situation,” Obama said warning: “There will be consequences if people step over the line. And that includes making sure that the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.”