President Barack Obama hosted new Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House on Wednesday, in a show of solidarity with the new Ukrainian government.
He said the U.S. and the rest of the international community rejected the “slapdash election” in Crimea, where citizens are set to vote on a referendum that would make the region part of Russia.
“There’s another path available and we hope President Putin is willing to seize that path,” Obama said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a White House pool report. “But if he does not, I’m very confident that the international community will stand firmly behind the Ukrainian government.”
Obama said the international community would reject the referendum as a “violation of international law.” If the referendum proceeds, he added, the international community would be “will be forced to apply a cost” to Russia.
The U.S. has already announced visa restrictions on Russian and Crimean individuals involved in the ongoing crisis, while Obama signed an executive order opening the door for further sanctions on individuals and other entities.
Yatsenyuk spoke in forceful terms from the White House’s Oval Office, saying he felt the U.S. stands by the Ukrainian people.
“We fight for our freedom, we fight for our independence, we fight for our sovereignty and we will never surrender,” Yatsenyuk said, according to the pool report.
Yatsenyuk was scheduled to meet later Wednesday with House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Earlier in the day, he met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry is scheduled to fly to London Thursday evening to meet on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“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,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
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