WASHINGTON: US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Sunday that Russia, Europe and the United States all have an interest in keeping crisis-hit Ukraine from breaking apart.
A new era dawned in the ex-Soviet state when parliament appointed a pro-Western interim leader after impeaching a defiant president Viktor Yanukovych, whose whereabouts remain a mystery following a week of carnage that capped three months of mostly peaceful protests.
“It’s not in the interests of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or of the United States to see the country split,” Rice told NBC’s “Meet the Press” talk show. “It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate.”
She warned that it would be a “grave mistake” for Ukraine’s old master Russia to send in forces to restore the kind of government it would like to see in Kiev.
“There is not an inherent contradiction... between a Ukraine that has long-standing historic and cultural ties to Russia and a modern Ukraine that wants to integrate more closely with Europe,” Rice said. “It need not be mutually exclusive.”
In a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry “underscored the United States’ expectation that Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic freedom of choice will be respected by all states.”
According to a senior State Department official, Kerry also expressed Washington’s “strong support” for the Ukrainian parliament’s move to name an acting president and acting prime minister.
These actions “offer the best and most promising path forward to restore peace and stability to Ukraine quickly, and to address Ukraine’s pressing financial challenges in the coming weeks and months,” Kerry said, according to the official.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, meanwhile, pointed to “broad support” at the G20 meeting of finance ministers in Sydney this weekend for an international aid package based out of the International Monetary Fund, once a transitional government formally takes power. “The United States, together with Europe and others in the international community, are ready to supplement an IMF program to cushion the impact of reforms on low-income Ukrainians,” a Treasury official said, citing Lew.
“However, Secretary Lew underscored the need to implement reforms that could be supported by an IMF program.”
Lew, who spoke by telephone with Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk as he flew back to Washington, urged Ukraine to initiate talks with the IMF “as quickly thereafter as possible,” the official added.
Rice reiterated Washington’s stance that it wanted to see a de-escalation of violence in Ukraine, as well as constitutional change and democratic elections “in very short order.”
“This is not about the US and Russia,” she said.
“This is about whether the people of Ukraine have the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations and be democratic and be part of Europe, which they choose to be.”
Rice said US President Barack Obama, in his recent phone call on the crisis with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, addressed the issue of Ukrainian unity.
“The president’s message was, look, we have a shared interest in a Ukraine that remains unified, whole, independent and is able to exercise the will of its people freely,” she said.
“At that point, Putin was in agreement.”
Rice said Washington wanted to cooperate with partners in Europe, the IMF and the Russians to help Ukraine’s economy, describing it as “very, very fragile.”
“They need to reform, and they need financing. And that will be very much a part of our shared efforts,” Rice said.
Kerry, in his call with Lavrov, expressed hope that Russia would join the United States, the European Union and other allies to “help Ukraine turn the page and emerge from this crisis stronger, united and moving forward through new elections and critically needed reforms.”
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