Ukraine’s Interim Leader Seeks Aid in Washington

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from The New York Times,

The interim prime minister of beleaguered Ukraine made the rounds here on Wednesday as he sought help bolstering his fragile government and even more fragile economy while somehow reversing Russia’s occupation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, an opposition leader named interim prime minister after the fall of the pro-Russia government in Kiev last month, met with President Obama at the White House as well as Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department, and he was scheduled to meet with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill. He then planned to head to New York, where he is scheduled to address the United Nations on Thursday.

Mr. Yatsenyuk’s visit comes at a critical moment for his country. Crimea, where Russian troops have been solidifying their positions, is scheduled to hold a referendum Sunday on whether to remain in Ukraine or rejoin Russia. The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan, in a joint statement as the Group of 7, called the vote illegal on Wednesday and vowed “further action” if Russia annexes the peninsula.

Just as significant on his agenda for Washington, Mr. Yatsenyuk will be seeking a booster shot for Ukraine’s flailing economy. Mr. Kerry has committed $1 billion in loan guarantees, and Congress is working on legislation to make that happen, but that is just a small fraction of what Ukraine is reported to need to prevent a more dire financial and economic slide.

For Mr. Obama, the visit is a chance to show that he is standing by the new pro-Western Ukrainian government that came to power after street protests in Kiev toppled the Russia-aligned government of President Viktor F. Yanukovych. Mr. Obama will be joined at the 2:45 p.m. meeting in the Oval Office by Mr. Kerry and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is rushing back from a trip to Chile.

Mr. Yatsenyuk was scheduled to meet on Wednesday evening at the Capitol with Mr. Boehner and later with Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and the rest of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is working on its own legislation to aid Kiev and punish Russia.

“Putin has miscalculated by starting a game of Russian roulette with the international community,” Mr. Menendez wrote in The Washington Post on Wednesday, “but we refuse to blink, and we will never accept this violation of international law.”

“We are not asking for anything from anyone,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said, according to news agencies. “We are asking for just one thing — military aggression has been used against our country. Those who guaranteed that this aggression will not take place must from the one side pull out troops and from the other side must defend our independent, sovereign state.”

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