Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has come to Washington to ask for U.S. assistance following the Russian occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The political upheaval in Ukraine that ousted the pro-Russian government of Yakunovych in February has only worsened Ukraine’s already fragile economy. The political uncertainty of a referendum being held Wednesday over whether or not Crimea will remain part of Ukraine or return to Russia has the international community condemning the Russian annexation as “illegal.”
In a joint statement, the Group of 7–the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan–said that if such a move by Crimean authorities were to take place, there would be “further action” taken against Russia.
Russian troops moved in to secure the peninsula following pro-Russia marches. The peninsula, home to over a million ethnic Russians, identifies itself with the East, donning posters denouncing U.S. intervention in the region. Crimean authorities have sided with Russia, working together to secure the region from what they see as “hostile” Ukrainian and Western forces.
Interim Prime Minister Yatsenyuk arrived in Washington to discuss the aid package with President Obama, hoping to secure a $1 billion loan guarantee. Analysts are saying this is a modest number considering what the country needs economically to stay afloat amidst their financial troubles.
The money could also go to Ukraine’s nimble military, which is in need of assistance. Photos of Ukraine’s military fleet in the Black Sea show mattresses being hung over the railings in hopes of warding off Russian soldiers, stressing their dire financial situation.
The first visit from the top official in Ukraine’s government is more than just a face-to-face business deal, but also a show of support from the United States for the pro-Western government. U.S. officials, along with the president and Secretary of State John Kerry, have voiced their support for Ukraine’s new government and have urged Russia to pull out of the region and allow “democracy” to take action.
Russian officials view it from a different lens, showcasing the majority of Crimeans who want to be a part of Russia rather than Ukraine. Observers say the Crimean population’s choice to join Russia is no less democratic and of public choice than the protests of pro-Western activists that overthrew the Ukrainian government in February.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution for sanctions against Russia, as well as support for the Ukrainian government, and another bill which guaranteed loans to the new government has already been passed.
The meeting between Yatsenyuk and Obama will be accompanied by visits with other high ranking U.S. lawmakers, such as Rep. John Boehner, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, as well as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ukraine’s new government hopes that with the backing and assistance of the U.S. government and other Western leaders, Putin will be more weary of taking Crimea and launching a full-scale invasion of the country.
Officials say that Russia’s actions violate international law while Russia says it is only seeking to secure its military base in Crimea, as well as defend the population against the new pro-Western government in Ukraine.
By John Amaruso