U.S. politicians and officials from across the political spectrum delivered a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin Sunday: Stay out of Ukraine.
Weeks of protests in Kiev’s Independence Square that resulted in scores of deaths culminated with Ukraine’s pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the capital Sunday while opponents in Ukraine’s parliament ousted officials who backed him. The pro-European former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was freed from prison Saturday as parliamentarian and former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko called for protestors to stay in place to protects gains made last week.
Now that the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games came to its spectacular close Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to turn his full attention to the crisis in Ukraine. Putin wants Kiev to build ties with Moscow as opposed to Brussels, and has offered financial incentives for Ukraine to do so. But without Yanukovych in charge, Putin’s influence is diminished dramatically.
On “Meet the Press,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice warned Putin not to get further involved in Ukraine. She said that sending Russian troops to Ukraine would be a “grave mistake.”
“This is not about the U.S. and Russia,” Rice said. “This is about whether the people of Ukraine have the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations and be democratic and be part of Europe, which they choose to be.”
Sen. John McCain delivered the same message (R-AZ). Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” McCain told Russia not to get involved.
“The Ukrainian people will determine their own future. They want to be Western…they do not want to be Eastern,” McCain, who met with the protestors last year, said.
Elsewhere, on Fox News Sunday, a key Republican lawmaker called on the White House to send a firm message to Russia.
“Now that the Olympics are over we need to warn Russia” not to interfere, said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, (R-NH), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We need to send a clear message.”
On Friday, President Obama and Putin spoke about the situation in Ukraine for nearly an hour, according to reports. White House spokesman Jay Carney said last week that the two had shared interests in Ukraine. Obama has not yet commented on this weekend’s developments.
“The fact of the matter is, it is in Russia's interest for the violence to end in Ukraine as it is in the interest of the United States and our European friends," Carney said Friday. "We welcome the cessation of violence, and we welcome the agreements that have been reached."
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