– US warns Russia it would be a ‘grave mistake’ to send its military into Ukraine (Daily Mail Feb 23, 2014):
- Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser said it is not in interests to see the country split
- ‘It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate,’ Rice said today in interview
- Opposition politician captured kissing daughter Yevgenia upon her arrival to Kiev’s iconic Independence Square
- Ukrainian parliament voted to oust Mr Yanukovych – duties temporarily handed over to Oleksander Turchinov
America has warned Russia it would be a ‘grave mistake’ to send military forces into Ukraine as its new leader said it wants to integrate with the European Union.
Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser said it is not in the interests of Ukraine, Russia, Europe or the United States to see the country split.
Speaking on the NBC program ‘Meet the Press’, Ms Rice was asked about a possible scenario in which Russia would send forces into Ukraine to restore a government more friendly to Moscow.
She said: ‘That would be a grave mistake. It is not in the interests of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or the United States to see the country split. It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate.’
Ms Rice’s comments are the most extensive from the White House to date since the recent dramatic events unfolded in Ukraine.
It comes as Ukraine’s new interim president said on Sunday that he was open to dialogue with Russia as long as Moscow respected his country’s decision to seek closer ties with the European Union.
‘We are ready for a dialogue with Russia… that takes into account Ukraine’s European choice, which I hope will be confirmed in (presidential) elections’ set for May 25, Oleksandr Turchynov said in a television address.
As the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, end Putin is now likely to more closely focus on the Ukrainian situation.
The State Department said on Saturday it would send its No. 2 official, Bill Burns, to Kiev this week.
Rice said the United States wants a de-escalation of the violence in Ukraine, constitutional changes, democratic elections ‘in very short order,’ and the opportunity for Ukrainians to come together in a coalition unity government.
She said U.S. authorities are not sure where Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich has fled.
‘He is in a place that will reveal itself. Yesterday we knew where he was. Today we’re not so sure,’ Rice said.
The crisis in Ukraine reflects the conflict between those who want the country to remain aligned with Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and those seeking closer integration with Western Europe.
But Rice said those goals were not ‘mutually exclusive’.
‘There is not an inherent contradiction … between a Ukraine that has longstanding historic and cultural ties to Russia and a modern Ukraine that wants to integrate more closely with Europe,’ Rice said.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s parliament, exercising power since mass protests caused Yanukovich to flee, named its new speaker as acting head of state and worked to form a new government.
The European Union and Russia, vying for influence over the huge former Soviet republic on their borders, considered their next moves.
Russia, which had provided funding to Yanukovich’s government, said it would keep cash on hold until it sees who is in charge.
Asked whether Putin looked at Russia’s sphere of influence in Ukraine in a Cold War context, Rice said that ‘he may’.
‘But if he does, that’s a pretty dated perspective that doesn’t reflect where the people of Ukraine are coming from. This is not about the U.S. and Russia,’ Rice added.
Two key lawmakers urged the Obama administration to make clear that Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be protected.
‘I think the message has to be sent to him (Putin) that let the Ukrainian people determine their own future, and a partition of Ukraine … is totally unacceptable,’ Republican Senator John McCain, a key Republican voice on foreign policy, told the CBS program ‘Face the Nation’.
‘And we need to act immediately to give them (Ukrainians) the economic assistance that they need, based on reforms that are gonna be required, as well. So it’s gonna be tough sledding.’
Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, added in a statement: ‘The United States should do everything possible to ensure Ukraine remains one country and that their territorial and political integrity is maintained, allowing them the freedom to choose a future within Europe.’
Earlier on Sunday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew met his Russian counterpart, Anton Siluanov, on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in Sydney to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
‘Secretary Lew emphasised that the United States, working with other countries including Russia, stands ready to assist Ukraine as it implements reforms to restore economic stability and seeks to return to a path of democracy and growth,’ a Treasury Department official said.
Earlier today, images emerged of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in tears as she was reunited with her daughter for the first time in two and a half years after she was released from prison.
In emotional scenes the opposition politician was captured kissing her daughter Yevgenia upon her arrival to Kiev’s iconic Independence Square to address the assembled crowd.
With its president gone and a new one named today to fill the void, Ukraine remains a country bitterly divided by an ethnic split that goes back to the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago.
For three months anti-government protesters have been involved in a stand-off with authorities.
With the news that President Viktor Yanukovich has fled Kiev and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been released, the nation’s future hangs in the balance.
Today, presidential duties were temporarily handed over to the speaker of the assembly, Oleksander Turchinov. The Ukrainian parliament also voted to dismiss Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, forcing out an ally of Mr Yanukovich.
Kozhara has been closely involved in discussions with foreign powers over Yanukovich’s decision to spurn political and trade deals with the European Union and rebuild economic ties with Russia instead.
Protests began in November when Yanukovych abruptly refused to sign a long-anticipated political association and free trade agreement with the European Union, opting instead for closer ties with Russia.
Yanukovych is widely despised in western Ukraine but has strong support in the Russian-speaking east, where he’s from, as well as in the south.
Russian is widely spoken in the parts of the east and south and in some places like the Crimean peninsula where it is the main language.
This is largely a result of heavy immigration from Russia during the Soviet era.
However, in the west the population speaks Ukrainian and tends to be more nationalistic identifying with Central Europe.
Maps show that areas where a significant proportion of people speak Russian almost exactly match those which voted for Mr Yanukovych in 2010.
The pro-Western demonstrators saw Yanukovych’s move as a betrayal of national interests and submission to Moscow and demanded that he reverse his decision.
Their number swelled to hundreds of thousands after a brutal crackdown by riot police and demands grew more radical calling for Yanukovych’s resignation and early elections.
His supporters in the east, meanwhile, see the protesters and the opposition as manipulated and financed by the West and feel greater economic and cultural connections to Russia.
Yanukovych left the capital on Saturday for Kharkiv, the heart of his eastern support base, and accused the parliament in Kiev of staging a coup.
The governor and mayor of Kharkiv has also fled to Russia.
But weeks of peaceful rallies turned abruptly violent in January after parliament, dominated by Yanukovych supporters, passed repressive laws intended to quash the protest.
Radical protesters hurled firebombs and stones at police, who retaliated with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets. At least four people died and hundreds were injured.
Yanukovych made some concessions, retracting the repressive legislation and firing his prime minister.
The opposition kept pushing for constitutional changes that would limit the presidential powers.
But the refusal by pro-Yanukovych lawmakers to endorse the amendments triggered new violence this week, when demonstrators assailed police and police fought back.
Firearms were widely used this time, resulting in a much higher death toll.
Ukraine is strategically located and with a large consumer market and untapped economic potential, and the U.S., Russia and the EU have all tried to weigh in on its future.
Moscow sees what is now Ukraine as the birthplace of Russian statehood and Russian Orthodox Christianity.
Most of modern-day Ukraine came under the control of the czars in the 1700s after being part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sees close economic and political ties with Ukraine as essential for the success of his project to build an alliance of ex-Soviet neighbors.
Russia has done its best to derail Ukraine’s pact with the EU with a mixture of trade sanctions and promises.
Moscow offered a $15 billion bailout to help Ukraine avoid an imminent default, but so far has only provided $3 billion, freezing further disbursements pending the outcome of the ongoing strife.
EU leaders stepped up their negotiating efforts this week because of the violence on their eastern border.
Two days of shuttle diplomacy produced a peace deal between the opposition and president.
But the opposition quickly took the upper hand, and Russia slammed the deal as tailored for the West.
On Saturday, protesters took control of the capital and police abandoned posts.
The parliament voted to remove the president from power and set new elections for May 25.
His chief rival, ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is now free after two and a half years in custody and is promising to run for president.
Tymoshenko is already confidently talking about joining the EU, but that prospect seems a long way off given Ukraine’s corrupt economy.