Obama to meet Ukrainian PM, Merkel blasts Putin

President Obama will welcome Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the White House on March 12. Holding a referendum in Crimea violates Ukraine’s constitution and international law, the German chancellor states.

‘The visit will highlight the strong support of the United States for the people of Ukraine, who have demonstrated inspiring courage and resilience through recent times of crisis. The President and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk will discuss how to find a peaceful resolution to Russia’s ongoing military intervention in Crimea that would respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. They will also discuss support the international community can provide to help Ukraine confront its economic challenges, and the importance of uniting Ukraine and working to fulfill the aspirations of the Ukrainian people as they prepare for May presidential elections,’ the statement says.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Angela Merkel delivered a rebuke to President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, telling him that a planned Moscow-backed referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia was illegal and violated Ukraine’s constitution, reuters.com reports. Russian forces’ seizure of the region has been bloodless but tensions are mounting following the decision by pro-Russian groups there to make Crimea part of Russia. Putin declared a week ago that Russia had the right to invade Ukraine to protect Russian citizens, and his parliament has voted to change the law to make it easier to annex territory inhabited by Russian speakers.

Speaking by telephone to Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, Putin said steps taken by authorities in Crimea were ‘based on international law and aimed at guaranteeing the legitimate interests of the peninsula’s population’.

A German government statement, however, said the referendum was illegal: ‘Holding it violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law.’

Merkel also regretted the lack of progress on forming an ‘international contact group’ to seek a political solution to the Ukraine crisis and said this should be done urgently.


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