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Obama to host new Ukrainian PM at White House

WASHINGTON (AP) - In a diplomatic dig at Russia, President Barack Obama is hosting the new Ukrainian prime minister at the White House, a high-profile gesture aimed at cementing the West's allegiance to Ukraine's fledgling government.

The meeting Wednesday between Obama and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk comes as a pro-Russian area of Ukraine readies for a referendum Sunday to determine its future. Voters in the Crimean Peninsula will be given two options: becoming part of Russia, or remaining in Ukraine with broader powers.

The U.S. and Europe have declared the referendum illegitimate, saying Ukraine's central government must be involved in decisions about its territory. The dispute over the future of the former Soviet republic has conjured up echoes of the Cold War tensions between East and West.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Yatsenyuk's visit was meant to signal "that we strongly support Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government."

Amid the symbolism of Yatsenyuk's visit to the U.S., the Ukrainian leader will also be seeking financial assistance from Washington. Yatsenyuk says his country needs the West's help to defend itself against neighboring Russia, a nation he said is "armed to the teeth."

Ukraine's parliament installed Yatsenyuk as head of the country's interim government after pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital of Kiev following three months of popular protests. The uprising started when Yanukovych rejected a planned partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of historical ties with Moscow.

Days after Yanukovych left Kiev, Russia moved military forces into Crimea, defying warnings from the U.S. Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far brushed aside punishments levied by the West following the incursion, including visa bans, the threat of economic sanctions and a halt to planning for an international economic summit Russia is scheduled to host in June.

Russia does not recognize the new government, nor the elections planned in Ukraine in May.

A possible path for de-escalating the dispute emerged Tuesday, when Crimea's parliament said that if the public votes to become part of Russia, the peninsula will declare itself independent and propose becoming a Russian state. That could give Moscow the option of saying there is no need for Crimea to become part of Russia while keeping it firmly within its sphere of influence.

Yatsenyuk will be greeted at the White House Wednesday by all of the grandeur of a head of state visit, including an Oval Office meeting with Obama. The two leaders were expected to make brief comments to the media following their discussions.

Vice President Joe Biden, who has served as a primary administration contact with Ukraine's old and new governments, was cutting short a trip to Latin America to attend the meeting. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met with Yatsenyuk in Kiev last week, is expected to have a separate meeting with the prime minister.

Obama and other administration officials are expected to reinforce their commitment to boost Ukraine's fragile new government. The U.S. has promised Ukraine $1 billion in loan guarantees, as well as technical support as it moves toward elections.

Obama has urged Congress to quickly approve the loan guarantee, which is supposed to supplement additional assistance from the International Monetary Fund. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to vote Wednesday on a bill that both provides aid to Ukraine and hits Russia with sanctions.

A major sticking point had been a provision in the bill to enhance the lending capacity of the IMF. The Obama administration has pushed hard for acceptance of the IMF changes as part of the legislation authorizing the assistance.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the committee chairman, said Tuesday IMF revisions would be included in the bill.

The IMF's 2010 revisions expand the power of emerging countries within the global lending body and make some of its funds more readily available. The United States is the only country on the IMF board that hasn't accepted the changes yet.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Tuesday he supported the IMF changes and viewed them as a "national security" concern. But several House Republicans have voiced opposition.

The House last week voted overwhelmingly in favor of the loans to Ukraine. The legislation didn't include Russia sanctions or any language on the IMF.

The European Union has pledged $15 billion in assistance to Ukraine, though even that falls well short of the $35 billion in international rescue loans Kiev says it needs over the next two years.

Join the discussion

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fishhead80 March 12 2014 at 8:13 AM


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joe March 12 2014 at 8:50 AM

Who cares fix the problem here first. Gobble Gobble

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bobbro100 March 12 2014 at 8:58 AM

What Obama could do is to announce that the US is going to drastically increase our export of liquified natural gas to Europe. That would ease the strangle-hold Putin has on Europe's energy supply. But wait. That would mean the president actually doing something. Instead, his Sec of State made a 'major' policy speech last Friday. The subject, with all that is going on in the world? Climate change. You can't make this stuff up.

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CUSACitizen March 12 2014 at 8:51 AM

The consequences of the poor choices of the few in power are paid by the many who have no voice in the choices. The question is... Do we the people, want to get involved in yet another conflict and help abroad when we are up to our eyeballs in debt with no improvement on sight? Leaders around the world lord it over the people and it will never change... Syria, North K, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Egypt, USA, Sudan, etc. I am curious to know what would the result be if every voting citizen in our Nation would vote "yes" or "no" to get involved in other Nation's wars.

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martinezpeter1 March 12 2014 at 8:33 AM

If he is serious about laying down the law, Obama needs to meet with Putin and tell him if he continues on this path the U.S. will no longer except rubles in payment for trade.

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2 replies
rdz69 martinezpeter1 March 12 2014 at 8:42 AM

don't think putin gives a ****! putin is honey badger all over again.......................

Russians know how to do wo-Americans are so soft, that our nation is falling apart.
America no longer has any backbone-thx dems.................. give it away-give it away!

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tgeorge410 martinezpeter1 March 12 2014 at 8:52 AM

No, What we should have done was let Germany finish Russia.

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etufford March 12 2014 at 8:20 AM

Obummer does not want the USA to be a super power anymore. He wants us the leave the rest of the world alone to run amok.

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whisperhill March 12 2014 at 8:17 AM

How much r u giving them? How much of those $$$ could be used to feed our homeless?

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1 reply
jws1141 whisperhill March 12 2014 at 8:23 AM

"0" Zero

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scottee March 12 2014 at 8:16 AM

Obama takes diplomatic dig at Russia...

I am sick of a cocky, condescending and divisive president who has no fiscal constraints.

I had hoped that fiscal responsibility in Washington would have been his priority.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
ddesros100 March 12 2014 at 8:14 AM

Oh, that will show him. Won't do anything about it but, will have a good lunch on us. Maybe another round of golf . How weak we have become. Shameful.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
1 reply
violetvalerieviolet ddesros100 March 12 2014 at 8:17 AM

so what do u think we should do?

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4 replies
MARY ELLEN March 12 2014 at 8:37 AM

He had better tread wisely... We're in a big mess if he doesn't!!!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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