News / Europe

Obama: 'We Will Stand With Ukraine'

Obama Hosts Ukrainian Prime Minister in Signal to Russiai
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March 13, 2014 2:30 AM
President Barack Obama welcomed interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the White House Wednesday as part of U.S. efforts to defuse the growing crisis between Washington and Moscow. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports.

Watch related video from VOA's Luis Ramirez.

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President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the U.S. and its allies would be forced to apply a cost to Russia if it presses ahead with a referendum on Sunday that would effectively annex Crimea.

His comments came in a White House meeting with Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. With the prime minister sitting beside him Obama said "We will stand with Ukraine."  

This was Obama's first meeting with Yatsenyuk and was meant to underscore U.S. support for the new government and the Ukrainian people.

The president referred to Russia's military presence in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula as a threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.  He also said Washington "completely rejects" Sunday's planned Russia-backed referendum that would have Crimea secede from Ukraine.  He said the vote, "patched together in a few weeks," is a violation of international law.

For his part, Yatsenyuk thanked Washington for its support, and said his government is "absolutely ready and willing" for talks with Moscow.  But said Ukraine will never surrender. He also said his government is preparing to sign an association agreement with the European Union later this month.

Obama said he hoped diplomatic efforts would lead to a "rethinking" of the Russian-backed referendum on Sunday, but he said if the vote does take place "We will not recognize any referendum that goes forward." 

As part of the talks, Obama and Yatsenyuk  discussed  financial assistance for Ukraine. The U.S. has already pledged $1 billion in aid.

In a separate show of support, a group of U.S. senators, headed by Senator John McCain, will be traveling to Ukraine for meetings this weekend.

Their trip takes place as the U.S. Senate is considering a package of possible new sanctions on Russia as well as economic aid to Ukraine. 

Kerry to meet again with with Lavrov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to London to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Friday to try to ease tensions over Ukraine ahead of Sunday’s planned Crimea referendum.

"The Secretary will continue to reaffirm the United States' unwavering support for Ukrainian sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, without outside interference or provocation by Russia." the State Department said in a statement announcing Kerry's trip.

Last week, Kerry met with Lavrov twice in Europe to discuss the crisis over Ukraine. Neither meeting yielded any results.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 403 to six to condemn Russia for violating Ukraine's sovereignty in Crimea. The resolution also calls for international monitors to go to the region.

Moscow has officially denied that its troops are participating in the occupation of Crimea. But witnesses say military personnel in unmarked uniforms arrived in Russian-registered vehicles earlier this month and freely admit to being Russian.

G-7 blasts Russia

Joined by other leaders, the G-7 is calling on Russia to cease all efforts to change the status of Ukraine’s peninsula in violation of Ukrainian and international law.

A controversial Moscow-backed referendum on the territory’s status, which the West has said it will not recognize, is planned for Sunday.

“Any such referendum would have no legal effect. Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force. For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome,” says the G-7 statement as released by the White House.

Citing a number of international agreements the referendum would violate, the statement also stresses that “the annexation of Crimea [by Russia] could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states.”

“Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively,” the statement adds.

The statement was issued by the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States as well as the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission.

It also reminds Moscow of "our decision to suspend participation in any activities related to preparation of a G-8 Sochi meeting until it changes course and the environment comes back to where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion."

The summit in the Russian city was scheduled for June.

FILE - U.S. Senator John McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington.FILE - U.S. Senator John McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington.
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FILE - U.S. Senator John McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington.
FILE - U.S. Senator John McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington.
McCain floats anti-Russia measures

In response to Russia’s actions in Crimea Republican U.S. Senator John McCain has suggested a series of measures Congress should take against Moscow.

Among the steps he recommended in an interview with VOA would be the imposition of sanctions against individuals close to Russian president Vladimir Putin, especially those responsible for human rights abuses and corruption.

The senator also suggested the U.S. “start [its] missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland, [and] accelerate the path of Georgia and Moldova into NATO,” – steps McCain believes would “change… Putin’s behavior.”

He also called on the Obama administration to stop pushing the “reset button” with Russia and to “understand Putin for what he is: a KGB colonel apparatchik who said the worst disaster of the 20th century was the breakup of the Soviet Union.”

Senator McCain will lead a delegation that includes seven other U.S. senators to Ukraine this weekend as a show of support during the country’s confrontation with Russia. The group will meet with Ukrainian political leaders and other groups.

The group includes Republicans John Barrasso of Wyoming, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrats Richard Durbin of Illinois, Christopher Murphy of Connecticut and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Senators McCain and Murphy visited Kyiv in December, at the height of anti-government protests that eventually forced pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country.

EU readies sanctions

European Union member states have agreed on the wording of sanctions on Russia, including travel restrictions and asset freezes against those deemed responsible for violating the sovereignty of Ukraine, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The seven-page document describes in detail the restrictive measures to be taken against Moscow if it does not reverse course in Crimea and begin talks with international mediators on efforts to resolve the crisis over Ukraine.

With the wording of the sanctions agreed, the EU is still working on the names of individuals to be targeted.

European officials have indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will not be on the list, so that channels of communication can be kept open.

Instead the list is expected to focus on targets close to Putin in the security services and military establishment as well as on prominent members of the Russian parliament.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that the European Union will impose sanctions on Russia if it does not move to set up a contact group to discuss the Crimea crisis.  Merkel also said that the EU could sign a political association agreement with Ukraine's new government during an EU summit next week.

Paris snubbing Moscow?

France threatened on Wednesday to pull out of planned ministerial talks with Russia next week unless Moscow helps to reduce tension between Russia and Ukraine.

The meeting is a regular fixture of bilateral relations between Russia and France but happens to be scheduled this year for March 18, two days after the planned Crimean referendum.

“This meeting can be held depending on progress over Ukraine... if on the Russian side there are elements that allow us to think this meeting will be useful,” an official at the office of French President Francois Hollande said.

The meeting would involve the foreign and defense of both countries.

OSCE’s Crimea mission blocked

The Russian military appears to have been involved with the armed groups who set up road blocks and prevented an unarmed OSCE observer mission from entering Ukraine's Crimea region last week, the United States said on Wednesday.         

The U.S. diplomatic mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) quoted a report by the OSCE observer team which said the gunmen appeared to have Russian military equipment and vehicles.

When the OSCE military observer team tried to get into Crimea last Saturday, warning shots were fired and it was turned back.
          
The monitors were “blocked five times in multiple locations by heavily armed guards lacking clear national identification,” a U.S. statement said.

It quoted the team's report as saying that its observations “produced significant evidence of equipment consistent with the presence of Russian Federation military personnel [in the vicinity of] the various roadblocks encountered during the period of the observation.”
          
The U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, Daniel Baer, said in the statement that the findings “…clearly suggests direct involvement by the Russian Federation….”

War games

Russia will send several warplanes to its military ally, Belarus, in response to increased NATO activity near the borders of the ex-Soviet republic, the commander of the Belorussian air force was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

President Alexander Lukashenko had said earlier that Belarus would ask Russia to deploy 12 to 15 warplanes on its territory after the United States and Poland began war games that are expected to involve at least 12 U.S. F-16 fighter jets.

Belarus borders Russia, Ukraine and NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Further south, a joint exercise of U.S., Bulgarian and Romanian naval forces in the Black Sea started on Wednesday. The drills were planned before the crisis in Ukraine but were reportedly moved up to underscore support for NATO nations near Russia.

  • An armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol, March 13, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian serviceman closes a gate as an armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol March 13, 2014.
  • A woman walks past a barricade as a Ukrainian flag flutters in the wind in Kyiv's Independence Square, March 13, 2014.
  • People talk about developments in Ukraine at a central square next to a statue of Soviet revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin in Donetsk, Ukraine, March 12, 2014.
  • A woman passes by posters in support of Ukraine during the International poster campaign, Kyiv, March, 12, 2014.
  • People talk in Independence Square, Kyiv, March, 12, 2014.
  • A woman holds a dog sporting shoes and a ribbon in the colors of the Russian flag outside the regional parliament building in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 12, 2014.
  • A member of a self-defense volunteer group, with makeshift shin guards bearing a picture of a wolf, polishes his boots in Kyiv's Independence Square, March 11, 2014. 
  • Members of a Crimean self-defense unit check the passport of a passenger at the railway station in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 11, 2014. 


Some reporting by Reuters

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by: Simonzee1 from: Perth WA
March 16, 2014 3:20 AM
Putin has sent three lots of $50,000 to Anthony Ruiz an MMA fighter that got punished by the Russian champion Alexander Shlemenko.http://extramustard.si.com/2014/03/13/vladimir-putin-sent-an-american-mma-fighter-150k-after-watching-him-lose/That seems a lot more considerate and sensible than America beating up on their taxpayers by sending billions to the Ukraine for Kerry...McCain and the goons to appear on the streets. This in order that they can frame these billion dollar photos up on their plush office walls. The money is going to Russia to pay Ukraines gas bill anyway.Maybe it is Putin's way of giving back to the American people as a metaphor to illustrate how the taxpayer is beaten up by America's policymaking but at least he will guve them something back.A thoroughly decent act that Americans do not have the luxury of getting from their own leaders. Meanwhile America's infrastructure crumbles and people remain homeless and cold on the streets of major cities.Interesting to see that the French can't get anyone to help them in their colonialist "peacekeeping" expansion in the CAR region.People are waking up like in New Caledonia to how these French play their games. Round 1 Putin.I posted this and someone commentes 1.Iran 2. Syria and 3. Putin. Quite insightful.


by: Simonzee1 from: Perth WA
March 16, 2014 3:18 AM
Obama has a long list of different ideas and systems. A different set of lawyers to Russia...a different set of accountants in giving billions to Ukraine that will go straight to Russia...a different set of the facts surrounding ops in the black sea.....a different view of the truth...morality....justice....A different set of values, ("Hollywood best projects American values" Obama). And the list goes on. He sounds like and they (Americans) sound like strangers to the rest of the world...aliens perhaps ????


by: oldlamb from: Guangzhou
March 14, 2014 12:01 PM
The referendum on Sunday is illegal,It's also a violation of the international law for NATO to incited the protesters to coup Yanukovych's regime.


by: Eagle1 from: Tampa USa
March 13, 2014 9:43 PM
I agree Obama has no balls or strategy. His answer to every problem is giving a long speech with no back bone or real substance. He relies on so called diplomacy hand slapping. Russia is a proud country, not a child, she will not respond to hand slapping. Diplomacy is an elitist idea, hatched by people who think they can overpower one with their so called superior intellect. Diplomacy never works unless backed up by the tip of a sword. History has proved this to always be true. President Obama should study history more carefully! There are definitely 2 sides to the story of Ukraine. I am sure, both the west and east contributed equally to this geo political fiasco. However, Russia is clearly acting as an opportunist, taking advantage of the current situation for its own gains. The real problem is, once Russia gets a taste of it ill gotten gains, it will want more, this is human nature. That is the real problem! America needs to chose its path, appease or oppose. Let’s be honest, Russia is well known for inferior products, including its military hardware. Over the past 30 years there have been many world conflicts between nations armed with Russian military hardware and US hardware. The results were very embarrassing for the Russians! Clearly Russian Military technology is inferior to US military technology. The US has to be willing to engage the Russians militarily if needed. The Russians will not be pleased with the results! As for president Putin resorting to Nuclear weapons, he is an intelligent stagiest, not a suicidal crazed leader. I say let’s have some war games! Let’s put the lid on Russia before the pot boils over! No Fear!


by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
March 13, 2014 6:05 PM
Give freedom to Crimea! Crimea ppl wants democracy, wants referendum!
America is an evil dictator! Stop suppressing Crimea ppl's freedom.


by: zrz from: n.h.
March 13, 2014 9:54 AM
our american govt.is such a joke...obama ,kerry,mccain,,,what a bad joke


by: LUONG TUAN from: vietnam
March 13, 2014 5:47 AM
Hey, Yatsenyuk, you are only the puppet of the West. A poor puppet has no freedom and independence at all. The way you got power, the way you arranged the shooting of demonstrators and policemen have proved that you can never be the representative of Ukraine.


by: 1stworldview from: usa
March 13, 2014 3:22 AM
The invasion of the Ukraine by Russia is sending a ripple effect through out Eastern Europe. With the prospects now for possible cold war starting all over again investors brace for sanctions against Russia. And with the already falling economy of the Ukraine, investors and business are bailing out as fast as they can.

During the next few years, the Ukraine economy will be pushed to its limits. Currently, the Ukraine desperately needs 30 billion in loans to survive, and with ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich having already pulled the country out from the European Union, and the new government wanting nothing to do with Russia, the government will be in dire straits.

The US State department has issued a travel warning urging Americans not to travel to the Ukraine. Tourism is a huge part of Ukraine economy. with hotels, airlines and restaurants depending on tourism. As these businesses cut back,

the ripple effect in cities like Kiev, Odessa and Yalta will have devastating consequences on the economy. Just as when the housing market died in the US, the effects were felt world wide. Not only will Ukraine's economy continue to decline, but most of Western Europe's fragile economy will also feel the effects.

One industry that seems to thrive on the situation is the foreign bride market, A Foreign Affair operates four office in the Ukraine. Kenneth Agee the marketing director says, "In the last few weeks we have seen the biggest surge ever on women signing up. Not only have we seen the biggest surge, but we have seen the highest quality of women signing up; doctors, engineers, even some of Ukraine's most beautiful models, With the possibility of war looming over the horizon, American men are looking very desirable." A Foreign Affair 's new member Irina of Kiev says, "America is stable, American men have very good family values. These are important to Ukraine women; we want a good environment to raise our families. With Russian tanks rolling down our streets, I do not see a bright future here for starting a family.

The future does not look good for the Ukraine. Russia has no intention of letting Ukraine have complete independence.

Most western Ukrainians have had a strong dislike for Russia for many generations, and will do what ever it takes to resist Russian influence or occupation. This being said, the country will have a long battle and many lines drawn in the sand, from serious economic sanctions to full out war. At this time, it looks like this struggle could go on for a decade or more.




by: Sasha from: Crimea
March 13, 2014 3:17 AM
We don't want to be a part of Russia!!! Militants without insignia,but they are Russian military,I spoke with them,have been deployed here and under hole of rifles they urge us to vote in favor if Russia!! Is it right??? Are you crazy???


by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
March 13, 2014 2:31 AM
The map of Ukraine will show you who Crimea belongs to. Crimea belongs to the Ukrainian people. Crimea has been flying Ukrainian fly since their independence. Mr. Putin is a low life, and he needs to get a life. if he is so aggressive, why doesn't he bring it to the US? We stand with the Ukrainian people, and it is time that they decide their own destination. Russia needs to back off from Crimea. Those Russian people stay in Crimea after the fall of the soviet Union. and the presence of Russia in Ukraine is a threat to the region. and that will bring about destabilizing the region. Russia needs to respect the ICC laws. or else military option is the next. dealing with Russia, we cannot rule out military option. The US, UK and EU must stand up to Russia aggression and must uphold the values of ICC laws. Mr. must be brought to justice, We must set an example for the world to see. such a vigorous act cannot be tolerated in the 21ist century. We must act now, the whole should stand for the Ukrainian people. if you disagree, Russia is coming to take your land. Mr. Putin is a modern day Hitler. That KGB mess Mr. Putin keep it in Russia. Free the people Country. Crimea is not Russia.

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