WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is warning Russia against intervening in Ukraine after the country’s parliament ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and named an interim leader.
Appearing on U.S. television Sunday, President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, was asked about the possibility of Russian intervention in Ukraine following days of bloodshed and a change of leadership in the country.
“That [Russian intervention] would be a grave mistake. It is not in the interest of Ukraine or of Russia, or Europe, or the United States to see the country split. It is in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate,” said Rice.
Rice spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press program. She said there is “no inherent contradiction” between a Ukraine that has historical bonds with Moscow but wants to integrate more closely with Europe.
Protests erupted in November when Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Parliament has stripped Yanukovych of his powers and appointed the legislature’s newly-elected speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, interim president. Turchynov is a close ally of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who on Saturday was released from prison where she was serving a seven-year sentence for a conviction that was seen by her supporters and many in the West as political revenge by Yanukovych.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Democratic Senator Richard Durbin welcomed the turn of events and said he has spoken with Tymoshenko.
“It was quite a relief yesterday. Yulia Tymoshenko has been in prison for two and a half years. She told me, she assured me, that she is looking for a peaceful resolution to the problems in Ukraine, to follow the constitution and the law,” said Durbin.
Also appearing on Fox News Sunday was Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, who voiced concerns about possible Russian meddling in Ukraine.
“Now that the Olympics are over, we need to watch the behavior of the Russians, and I believe [President Obama] needs to up his game and send a clear unequivocal message, public message, to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin not to interfere in what is happening in Ukraine. To let the Ukrainian people determine their future,” said Ayotte.
National security advisor Rice says that message has already been sent, and Presidents Obama and Putin are in agreement that Ukraine must not split apart between the more pro-Russian east and the more pro-E.U. west.