Ukraine crisis: ‘We will stand with Ukraine’, says President Barack Obama as Russian troops mass on Crimean boarder

 

washington

Barack Obama held a high-profile meeting with Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, at the White House in a calculated display for the Kremlin of the West’s backing – moral, financial and diplomatic – for the embattled new government in Kiev.

“We will stand with Ukraine,” Mr Obama declared afterwards, before repeating his warning that Russia would have to pay a cost if it failed to change its policies.

The meeting came just four days before Sunday’s referendum in Crimea on whether the territory should rejoin Russia, amid accusations by Kiev that Moscow was engaged in a major military build-up along the border.

According to the Ukrainian authorities, the build-up, involving more than 80,000 troops, created “the threat of a full-scale invasion”. That claim was swiftly denied by the Russian Deputy Defence Minister. But it only heightened tensions, given that President Vladimir Putin pledged his readiness “to use all means” to protect the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine.

Tonight, as Nato sent two aircraft to monitor Ukrainian and Black Sea airspace, the impasse appeared total. Hours before Mr Yatsenyuk met Mr Obama, the G-7 issued a joint statement declaring they would not recognise the referendum, which the West regards as illegal. “We call on the Russian Federation to immediately halt actions supporting a referendum on the territory of Crimea regarding its status, in direct violation of the constitution of Ukraine,” the statement said.

But that demand seemed certain to fall on deaf ears. Thus far Moscow has brushed off every Western retaliation – from visa bans affecting unspecified individuals to the threat of economic sanctions and the suspension of planning for the G-8 summit scheduled for Sochi in June.

Even so, the two sides are continuing to talk, if only past each other. Today Mr Putin spoke by phone with President François Hollande of France, but the differing accounts of the conversation merely underlined the gulf between them. For the Kremlin, it was a chance to discuss ways of gaining “international support” for a solution to the crisis. In Paris, Mr Hollande denounced the “ unacceptable annexation” of Crimea.

Separately, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is holding hastily arranged talks in London tomorrow with  his Russian opposite number Sergei Lavrov.

Meanwhile Mr Yatsenyuk was trying to turn symbolic support into financial assistance, not least to boost defences against a Russia that is “armed to the teeth”.

While the EU has promised $15bn of aid, the US thus far has offered loan guarantees worth only $1bn, yet to be approved by Congress. But even the larger sum falls well short of the $35bn which the Ukrainian authorities say is needed by the end of 2015 to stave off financial collapse. 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific