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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.

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garyranderson March 12 2014 at 12:17 PM

The simple truth is, -Putin is crazy-smart like a fox, and the west is held up in diplomacy. Crimea will mosty likely ceed itself to the Russian Federation, but it shouldn't BE. First, Crimea will be sorry for rushing into the mouth of the lion; they should be reminded of their folly in the future. Second, a region has resources and pays TAX to it's Caesar. Russia shouldn't be the benefactor of this. Russia should PAY IN CASH a portion of the 35 Billion that Ukraine needs, by loan "forgiveness" and "grants" - not loans or heating subsidies. If Ukraine learns it's lessons well, they will dwarf the Russian economy in a single generation! Finally, (and I can't resist this) "Man of Action" Barak (name misspelt purposely to be likened to the errant prophet in the Bible who was found to be talking to his ass) -- made his signatory diplomatic move against Putin, --by having Dinner with the new Ukraine PM. It should be called the "Vodka Summit". That'll show HIM!

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Paul March 12 2014 at 9:54 AM

I wuz gonna break into the Huff Post comments then after reading some remarks I figured I'd leave big money alone!

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cshae89546 March 12 2014 at 9:55 AM

Yeah well, the last report from the American media was that Russian troops were cementing their positions in Crimea so it appears that Putin has a firm grasp of the significance of Obama's latest standing in the polls.

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Paul March 12 2014 at 9:55 AM

Huff Post has SUPERFANS! What the hell is that?

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2 replies
drepke Paul March 12 2014 at 9:58 AM

Those are their super-propagandists who have drunk the Obama koolaid.

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2 replies
Paul drepke March 12 2014 at 10:05 AM

Felt like I needed to tidy myself up and put a suit on and make up a buis. name like Glbal Entr Prz. and Constits.

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saultydog42 drepke March 12 2014 at 10:12 AM

I dont go to HUFFPOST any more because I dont want a facebook acct and done like being governed by the media.

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Drivy19 Paul March 12 2014 at 10:26 AM

Notwithstanding the fact that I've been an AOL subscriber for 15+ years, in one form or another, I can't "post" to HuffPost articles because I refuse to "link" AOL to any OTHER services, such as the "required" Facebook! I've also lowered my subscription level to the minimum and ONLY continue to "pay" for the service, despite it's leftist liberal approach, since Arrianna Huffington became a major "partner" in AOL, because it would be a bit of a task to switch everything around since AOL is a propietary service and doesn't allow for the export of bookmarks et al to ANY other service...

Vietnam Combat Veteran 7/66-11/71

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tmrddck March 12 2014 at 9:56 AM

***** trying so hard to be relevant...It's not racist caused I used the one with the "a", right?

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Jim March 12 2014 at 9:56 AM

The "deposed" President of Ukraine, with all of his flaws, gained his office in an election that was certified as free and fair by the EU and by the United States. The new Prime Minister of Ukraine was handed power by young people who overthrew the elected government of Ukraine with fire bombs and violence. No one voted for the new Prime Minister. Our President applauds the work of the anarchist "freedom fighters" and welcomes the non-elected Prime Minister to the White House.

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Mike March 12 2014 at 9:56 AM

I'll bet Putin is shaking in his boots !

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beverlyamy1 March 12 2014 at 11:45 AM

woooooo,you are really showing putin huh? freaking fool.

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Bill March 12 2014 at 11:07 AM

A Diplomatic Dig.
I bet that Putsin is quaking in the boots.

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Thomas March 12 2014 at 11:44 AM

Obama is a laughing stock in Russia. I know this first-hand. His hosting of the (illegal) Ukrainian prime minister is an act of a weak leader.

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1 reply
sandinbox Thomas March 12 2014 at 12:28 PM

Thomas we know all Putin lacky's are on the websites speaking against Obama and his actions. The new acting prime minister of Ukraine is not illegal...Ukrainian parliment voted him in. Putin and you don't get to tell Ukraine who's legal and who isn't. We know you kGB agents are on here but none of you are very smart. Anyone with intelligence on these websites knows this is your corrupt propaganda. You're shameless...and evil.

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