All senior modes of communication on foreign policy in the United States are now aligned with a uniform message for Ukraine: Viktor Yanokovych is no longer the legitimate ruler, and Russia should tread lightly in the region. In Thursday’s White House Press Briefing, Secretary Jay Carney reiterated these points to the press.
“He has abdicated his responsibilities by – shortly after signing an agreement to bring an end to the violence and take the actions that so many in the world had called on him to take, which was to establish a unity government, to end the violence and move towards early elections — he packed up his belongings and disappeared,” Carney said of Yanokovych, who is now said to be looking for support from Russia to establish himself there safely away from the protesters in Kiev. Multiple sources on either side of the affair have alleged that Yanokovych might be in Moscow. In his first public statement since leaving Kiev, Yanokovych attempted to reaffirm his position as President of Ukraine, which the United States no longer recognizes.
Aside from emphasizing that Yanokovych had no real power in the region anymore, Carney also lauded the opposition government’s attempt to return to normalcy as rapidly as possible in the face of such chaos. The new government appointed a new cabinet and is attempting to return legislators to work, though their efforts are being thwarted in the outskirts of the country, particularly in the pro-Russia province of Crimea. The parliament of the province is currently under the control of armed gunmen alleging to work on behalf of Russia, but there is no confirmation of their relationship to the actual Russian government.
Carney also addressed Russia. After President Obama warned pro-Russia activists in the nation not to “step over the line” and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said today that he would prefer if Russia “avoid[ed] provocative actions” in the region, Carney added his voice of concern to the chorus. “We expect Russia to be transparent about these activities they announced yesterday and to avoid provocative actions,” Carney said of Russia’s plans to prepare for war games on the Ukrainian border.
“That is an expectation we have,” he continued, “and we are conveying because it is in Russia’s interest, and of course in the interest of the Ukrainian people, that there not be provocations, that Ukraine’s territorial integrity be maintained and its sovereignty be maintained.” The most recent news out of the border is that Russia is currently flying fighter jets near Ukraine in addition to the military boost on the ground.