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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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K4YJA March 04 2014 at 12:55 PM

Do Not hate the Russians,Asians, Orientals as a people...they are Bright, Good People who have weathered the storms of time and still exist..

Flag Reply +3 rate up
wuverbo March 04 2014 at 12:37 PM

"0" has driven America 19 trillion dollars in debt 19,000,000,000,000.oo
and now he wants to borrow 1 billion dollars 1,000,000,000.oo more
so he can loan ( give ) it to a government that likely will not be in power 6 months from now,
a loan that will never be repaid anyhow because democrats in congress likely will forgive the note,
just as they did the trillion dollars given to Iraq as well as the cost to install the new puppet government
and the American lives lost. but who can put a price on sending Americans to die for another non deserving country so our president can get his feel good on.
to give some perspective on this 1 billion dollars is the entire mortgage on 4000 average American homes @ 250 thousand each. or the entire tax revenue for 1 year of 200,000 family's
the bill is due NOW get out your wallet STUPID AMERICAN TAX-PAYER ! ! !

Flag Reply +3 rate up
hi newpatch1951 March 04 2014 at 12:37 PM

Just keep giving our money away comrade O we could just print more

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
gjterranov hi newpatch1951 March 04 2014 at 12:48 PM

And every "new dollar" we print makes each dollar worth less and less!
How soon will Obummer make us a third world country?
Or are we there already and just don't know it?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
jjsrca March 04 2014 at 12:37 PM

We cannaoat afford to pay our own debts..why give $$$$$$ to Ukraine....IF we need to provide financial aid to countries let's do it to our friends who will halp us if we need them....if we have any fruiiends left...possibly only acquaintances. eh?

Flag Reply +5 rate up
Marty D March 04 2014 at 12:36 PM

What the hell is wrong with the butt heads in Washington??? We are broke, seriously in debt, and they are making a pledge to the Ukraine for $1 billion. Why does the USA have to be the caretakers of the world when we can't even take care of out Seniors and Veterans? Did I see any of the countries we give billions to.... help us when Sandy hit the east coast? How about any of our disasters? Lets take care of our own before we WASTE billions on these third world countries. Also do we see any cuts in the welfare or food stamp programs? NO just cuts in the SS and Veterans programs. WTF????

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sgsellsit March 04 2014 at 12:35 PM

What money are they loaning? Our deficit is in the trillions. Why do they think we have it to spend on a country that barely has enough money to keep itself afloat? Our own military is being cut and losing benefits, our own children are on the streets hungry and cold but yet we are sending money we don't have to another country, and for what?. I am concerned. Since Obama has been in office he has done away with the space program which is defense, cut the military funding and decreased our man power and equipment, he has become buddy , buddy with several Islamic countries and now he wants to help the Ukraines and tick Russia off at us. Are you not concerned?

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1 reply
cherofnc sgsellsit March 04 2014 at 12:44 PM

Borrowing it from China to "loan" it to Ukraine. Guess which one of the two countries holding the loans won't get paid back? The US or China? Wow...that is a stunningly difficult question.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
rstorrier March 04 2014 at 12:35 PM

This is complete insanity. Our government would not extend unemployment benefits to over a million out of work Americans in an incredibly tough economy for a few months. But within a few days, pulled a billion dollars together for Another country. Wow. We're screwed people. Our government does not care about us, we're on our own.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
slabba11 March 04 2014 at 12:35 PM

I heard they are after IOWA next !!! You should send them 2 or 3 billion too.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Who Me March 04 2014 at 12:33 PM

a $1 billion dollar "loan" to them and we have severe unemployment issues right here??? Obama you suck

Flag Reply +6 rate up
leslie March 04 2014 at 12:32 PM

Kerry, Obama, Clinton, Pelosi and Reid, Take that package and ship them off to the Ukraine! No strings attached! Keep them!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
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