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

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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rlbeee March 04 2014 at 9:42 AM

why???? putin will just increase prices for oil and gas to eat up any aid they get...He has the cards, not OBAMA

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1 reply
iamchurchladytoo rlbeee March 04 2014 at 10:00 AM

all hail the POTUS. He is gonna eat your lunch too!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Bob March 04 2014 at 10:14 AM

And what will WE get in return?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
wardenls March 04 2014 at 10:15 AM

Why don't they borrow it from China as we will do?

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1 reply
vtmichaelb wardenls March 04 2014 at 10:19 AM

Because they would actually have to pay China back!!!!!!!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Joe Baricev March 04 2014 at 10:14 AM

US is a fountian of money for other countries

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jasonsmokinj7 March 04 2014 at 10:17 AM

Let someone else loan them the money. Give me that money and I will create jobs for United States. The people in this administration are idiots. They throw money away that they should be using to pay off their own debt.

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bob March 04 2014 at 10:13 AM

It is nice to want to help others but how do we lend money we do not have? we are in debt up to our eyes to put it nice .
enough is enough bring our money home until we clear up our debt .
The American people should not be going with out while we send money to other countries "

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woody61woods March 04 2014 at 10:18 AM

Have we lost our minds. So now we are giving Russian 1 billion dollars, that number 1 we
don't have, that we we have to borrow from I'm guessing china. When is this country going to stop helping the world and getting back to helping its own. I really believe if se don't do something soon we wont have to worry about. God bless the USA.

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bill March 04 2014 at 10:12 AM

Is the US the dumbest country ever? You have to be kidding me, another billion dollars of aide for what? are they going to buy tanks and planes from the US? giving a billion dollars to countries for aide has helped the US so far, ask Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.............

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hark4109 March 04 2014 at 10:17 AM

Here we go again, Kerry writing the check? We give them a billion and the Russians will benefit in aome manner. Wow are we stupid or what?

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raptureus210 March 04 2014 at 10:12 AM

You see what I've been talking about. This Administration has a urgent mission to destroy this nation. This could be the one of the biggest mistakes in history. This will go down as the biggest waste in history. At the end of the day. Putin will be incharge. Read God's word people. There is no way this nation will gain. Oh well folks, you see what we have leading our country. Perpare yourselves. Get freeze dried foods, and a good water supply. Get out of debt. Most importantly, accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. He's the ONLY ONE who can help us, because these leaders we have are sooooo blind!

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