John Kerry visits Kiev, makes somber show of support for Ukraine's new leadership

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John Kerry visits Kiev, makes somber show of support for Ukraine's new leadership
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 05: US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference at the US embassy on March 05, 2014 in Paris, France. Negotiations between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ended without agreement on Wednesday, pressuring the EU to act against the Kremlin with punitive actions during an emergency summit Thursday. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet at the Russian Ambassador's Residence in Paris, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Russia rebuffed Western demands to withdraw forces in Ukraine's Crimea region to their bases on Wednesday amid a day of high-stakes diplomacy in Paris aimed at easing tensions over Ukraine and averting the risk of war. (AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, Pool)
French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius (R) and US Secretary of State John Kerry depart after a meeting on the Ukraine crisis with the Russian Foreign Minister and other foreign ministers at the Quai d' Orsay, the French foreign ministry, in Paris on March 5, 2014. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday resisted Western pressure to meet his Ukrainian counterpart but said talks with the United States and others would continue in coming days. At the end of a day of intense diplomatic negotiations in Paris, Lavrov left the French foreign ministry without having held a hoped-for meeting with acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya. AFP PHOTO / POOL - Kevin Lamarque (Photo credit should read KEVIN LAMARQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 05: French President Francois Hollande (L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leave Elysee Palace after a meeting on the Ukraine crisis on March 5, 2014 in Paris, France. Top diplomats from the West and Russia trying to find an end to the crisis in Ukraine gathered in Paris as tensions simmered over the Russian military takeover of the strategic Crimean Peninsula. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry clasps hands with an elderly woman who was speaking with him, during his visit to the Shrine of the Fallen in Kiev on March 4, 2014. The Shrine of the Fallen, located on Institutska Street, honors the fallen 'Heroes' of the 'Heavenly Sotnya' (Hundred). Over the course of the EuroMaidan protests, almost 100 protesters were killed by police. Most of them died on February 20 killed by sniper or automatic weapons fire on Institutska Street. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev Tuesday for talks with Ukraine's new interim government, amid an escalating crisis in Crimea. His visit came as the United States said it would provide $1 billion to financially-stricken Ukraine as part of an international loan. With the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea under near complete control by pro-Russian forces, US officials said Moscow could face sanctions within days. AFP PHOTO / POOL - Kevin Lamarque (Photo credit should read KEVIN LAMARQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) discusses wtih two men as he stands beside a barricade at the Shrine of the Fallen in Kiev on March 4, 2014. The Shrine of the Fallen, located on Institutska Street, honors the fallen 'Heroes' of the 'Heavenly Sotnya' (Hundred). Over the course of the EuroMaidan protests, almost 100 protesters were killed by police. Most of them died on February 20 killed by sniper or automatic weapons fire on Institutska Street. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev Tuesday for talks with Ukraine's new interim government, amid an escalating crisis in Crimea. His visit came as the United States said it would provide $1 billion to financially-stricken Ukraine as part of an international loan. With the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea under near complete control by pro-Russian forces, US officials said Moscow could face sanctions within days. AFP PHOTO / POOL - Kevin Lamarque (Photo credit should read KEVIN LAMARQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry lays red roses to the Shrine of the Fallen, an homage to anti-government protesters who died during the February clashes with anti-riot policemen in Kiev, on March 4, 2014. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev Tuesday for talks with Ukraine's new interim government, amid an escalating crisis in Crimea. His visit came as the United States said it would provide $1 billion to financially-stricken Ukraine as part of an international loan. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets Ukrainians in center Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, March, 4, 2014. In a somber show of U.S. support for Ukraine?s new leadership, Secretary of State John Kerry walked the streets Tuesday where nearly 100 anti-government protesters were gunned down by police last month, and promised beseeching crowds that American aid is on the way. The Obama administration announced a $1 billion energy subsidy package in Washington as Kerry was arriving in Kiev.( (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Secretary of State John Kerry talks with a religious leader as views the Shrine of the Fallen in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. The Shrine of the Fallen, located on Institutska Street, honors the fallen Heroes of the "Heavenly Sotnya" (Hundred). Over the course of the EuroMaidan protests, almost 100 protesters were killed by police. (AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry stands in front of the Shrine of the Fallen, an homage to anti-government protesters who died during the February clashes with anti-riot policemen in Kiev, on March 4, 2014. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev Tuesday for talks with Ukraine's new interim government, amid an escalating crisis in Crimea. His visit came as the United States said it would provide $1 billion to financially-stricken Ukraine as part of an international loan. AFP PHOTO/ VOLODYMYR SHUVAYEV (Photo credit should read VOLODYMYR SHUVAYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- In a somber show of U.S. support for Ukraine's new leadership, Secretary of State John Kerry walked the streets Tuesday where more than 80 anti-government protesters were killed last month, and promised beseeching crowds that American aid is on the way.

Kerry met in Ukraine with the new government's acting president, prime minister, foreign minister and top parliamentary officials. Speaking to reporters afterward, Kerry urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to stand down and said the U.S. is looking for ways to de-escalate the mounting tensions.

"It is clear that Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further," Kerry said. "It is not appropriate to invade a country, and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not 21st-century, G-8, major nation behavior."

Kerry made a pointed distinction between the Ukrainian government and Putin's.

"The contrast really could not be clearer: determined Ukranians demonstrating strength through unity, and the Russian government out of excuses, hiding its hand behind falsehoods, intimidation and provocations. In the hearts of Ukranians and the eyes of the world, there is nothing strong about what Russia is doing."

He said the penalties against Russia are "not something we are seeking to do, it is something Russia is pushing us to do."

President Barack Obama, visiting a Washington, DC school to highlight his new budget, said his administration's push to punish Putin put the U.S. on "the side of history that, I think, more and more people around the world deeply believe in, the principle that a sovereign people, an independent people, are able to make their own decisions about their own lives. And, you know, Mr. Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate that right now he is not abiding by that principle."

The Obama administration announced a $1 billion energy subsidy package in Washington as Kerry was arriving in Kiev. The fast-moving developments came as the United States readied economic sanctions amid worries that Moscow was ready to stretch its military reach further into the mainland of the former Soviet republic.

Kerry headed straight to Institutska Street at the start of an hours-long visit intended to bolster the new government that took over just a week ago when Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych fled. Kerry placed a bouquet of red roses, and twice the Roman Catholic secretary of state made the sign of the cross at a shrine set up to memorialize protesters who were killed during mid-February riots.

"We're concerned very much. We hope for your help, we hope for your assistance," a woman shouted as Kerry walked down a misty street lined with tires, plywood, barbed wire and other remnants of the barricades that protesters had stood up to try to keep Yanukovych's forces from reaching nearby Maidan Square, the heart of the demonstrations.

Piles of flowers brought in honor of the dead provided splashes of color in an otherwise drab day that was still tinged with the smell of smoke.

"We will be helping," Kerry said. "We are helping. President Obama is planning more assistance."

The Ukraine government continued to grapple with a Russian military takeover of Crimea, a strategic, mostly pro-Russian region in the country's southeast, and Kerry's visit came as Russian President Vladimir Putin said he wouldn't be deterred by economic sanctions imposed punitively by the West.

U.S. officials traveling with Kerry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration is considering slapping Russia with unspecified economic sanctions as soon as this week. Members of Congress say they're preparing legislation that would impose sanctions as well.

As Kerry arrived, the White House announced the package of energy aid, along with training for financial and election institutions and anti- corruption efforts. Additionally, the officials said, the U.S. has suspended what was described as a narrow set of discussions with Russia over a bilateral trade investment treaty. It is also going to provide technical advice to the Ukraine government about its trade rights with Russia. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be quoted by name before the official announcement was made.

Putin pulled his forces back from the Ukrainian border on Tuesday, yet said that Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians in the country but hopes it doesn't have to. Putin declared that Western actions were driving Ukraine into anarchy and warned that any sanctions the West might place on Russia for its actions there will backfire.

Speaking from his residence outside Moscow, Putin said he still considers Yanukovych to be Ukraine's leader and hopes Russia won't need to use force in predominantly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

In Washington, the White House said the $1 billion loan guarantee was aimed at helping insulate Ukraine from reductions in energy subsidies. Russia provides a substantial portion of Ukraine's natural gas and U.S. officials said they are prepared to work with Kiev to reduce its dependence on those imports. The assistance is also meant to supplement a broader aid package from the International Monetary Fund.

The U.S. officials traveling to Kiev said Washington is warily watching to see whether Russia will try to advance beyond Crimea.

They cited reports of Russian helicopters nearly flying into mainland Ukraine airspace before being intercepted by jets controlled by Kiev. It's believed as many as 16,000 Russian troops have deployed to Crimea, while Ukrainian forces are amassing on both sides of an isthmus separating the region's peninsula from the mainland.

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