Obama Says United States Stands With Ukrainian People



Published on 14 March 2014


by Merle David Kellerhals Jr.

(WireNews+Co)

Washington, D.C.

President Obama says the interests of the United States are in making sure that the Ukrainian people determine their own destiny without the threat of outside influence or force.

“The most pressing challenge that Ukraine faces at the moment … is the threat to its territorial integrity and its sovereignty,” Obama said during a March 12 meeting at the White House with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

“We have been very clear that we consider the Russian incursion into Crimea outside of its bases to be a violation of international law, of international agreements of which Russia is a signatory, and a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” Obama added.

Obama emphasized that the United States stands with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. He also noted that the United States rejects a proposed March 16 referendum to determine Crimea’s future that has been patched together in a few weeks while sizable Russian military forces occupy the Crimean peninsula.

The European Union and the United States have warned the Russian government that the proposed referendum is contrary to the Ukrainian constitution and to international law. Crimean voters will decide March 16 on one of two options: become a separate region and join Russia, or remain in Ukraine but with broader autonomous powers. However, voters will have no option to oppose either of the ballot questions; the status quo will not be an option. Ukraine’s independent news media have characterized the vote as a choice of “yes now or yes later” — immediately joining Crimea to Russia or declaring independence before later formalizing the bond.

“We will not recognize, certainly, any referendum that goes forward,” Obama said while sitting side by side with Yatsenyuk in the Oval Office. The president said he hoped that, as a consequence of diplomatic efforts led by Secretary of State John Kerry, there will be a rethinking of the actions promoted by Russia and the Crimean parliament.

Kerry is traveling to London for March 14 talks with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The aim of the meeting is to convince Russia that there is a diplomatic solution to this crisis. Kerry met with Yatsenyuk separately at the State Department on March 12 before the meeting in the Oval Office.

Obama said there is no doubt about the historic ties between Russia and Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government has effectively communicated with the Russian government their desire to resolve this dispute diplomatically over the Crimean region, but that “is not something that can be done with the barrel of a gun pointed at you.”

The leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — announced March 12 that any referendum for the future of Crimea “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,” the G7 leaders said in a statement. “For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome.”

The G7 has already announced a suspension of preparatory activities planned for the Group of Eight Summit in Sochi, Russia, later in 2014. Russia is the eighth member of the economic policy group, which includes the members of the G7.

Crimea became the focal point of tensions between Ukraine and Russia when President Viktor Yanukovych left Kyiv for Moscow in February in the aftermath of months of protests and civil strife. Russian military forces wearing ski masks and combat uniforms without markings or insignia began pouring into Crimea, a region in the southeast portion of Ukraine that is bordered by Russia and fronts onto the Black Sea. By treaty agreement, Russia maintains its Black Sea naval fleet in Crimea.

Yatsenyuk, who is serving as head of Ukraine's government in the lead-up to national elections in May, told reporters at the White House that the Ukrainian people’s main concern is their fight for freedom and sovereignty. Yatsenyuk was scheduled to address the United Nations March 13 in New York.

“My country has faced a number of challenges,” he said. “The military one is a key challenge today, and we urge Russia to stick to its international obligations, to pull back its military into barracks, and to start the dialogue with no guns, with no military, with no tanks, but with the diplomacy and political tools.”

Yatsenyuk said that the Ukrainian government is ready for open talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government, and that Ukraine will adhere to all of its international obligations and bilateral and multilateral international treaties.

In a 1994 treaty signed by Ukraine, Russia, the United States and Britain, the latter three nations pledged to guarantee Ukraine’s security and never to invade the country. In return Ukraine surrendered its share of the former Soviet Union’s stockpile of nuclear weapons to Russia.

Yatsenyuk also noted that Ukraine will sign an agreement within the next several weeks with the European Union, and “we want to be very clear that Ukraine is and will be a part of the Western world.” But he added that Ukraine also wants to remain a “good friend and partner of Russia.”

At the White House, Obama told reporters that the United States is moving ahead with an assistance package that includes $1 billion in loan guarantees aimed at helping support Ukrainian energy security. The European Union is preparing its own $15 billion assistance package for Ukraine, as well as additional financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the bill to extend political, economic and technical assistance to Ukraine. The House of Representatives has previously approved the plan.

Vice President Biden, who attended the Oval Office meeting with the president and Yatsenyuk, met with the prime minister separately on March 13 at the White House.

 

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Posted 2014-03-14 08:59:00